If you have a sapling in your hand and you are told, “The Messiah has come!” first plant the sapling and then go greet him.
–Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai
Saturday is 15 Shevat, the “new year for trees” known variously as Chag La-ilanot or Chag HaPeirot (Festival of Trees/Fruit). It may not be one of the better known Jewish holidays, but it sure is my kind of holiday! In commemoration, I planted this ‘Tiger Stripe’ or ‘Penachee’ fig.
As Rabbi Pinchas Winston explains:
Tu B’Shevat is the day of the year that separates the previous year from the upcoming year with respect to fruits grown on trees, since most of the rains have already fallen in Israel by then. As a result, any trees planted at that time are sure to take root in the already rain-saturated ground.
Well, the rains that fell this week at Ladera Frutal certainly made the planting easier, that’s for sure.
Tu B’Shevat Tu Bishvat* is (by definition) timed for the full moon of the month of Shevat, and is around the time when the first trees in the Land of Israel would begin to show growth–traditionally represented by the blooms of the almond trees–indicating winter is nearing its end.
I don’t yet have an almond tree in the ground, though I’ll be planting one of the ‘Garden Prince’ variety in the coming week (i.e. “next year”). Nonetheless, signs of the end of winter abound. The ‘Anna’ apple (a variety that happens to have been discovered in Israel in 1967) and the ‘Tropic Snow’ peach (always one of the first harbingers of spring) also started blooming this past week.
The ‘Penachee’ fig is, as its other name suggests, variegated. The fruit (and, very faintly, the stems, though not the leaves) have whitish stripes on green background. It is supposed to be one of the tastier figs. I planted right next to the ‘Black Madeira’ fig (visible, dormant for winter, at right edge of the photo).
And, yes, of course, that is your orchardist behind the fig, wearing one of my favorite shirts (from San Francisco “Strong Beer” month a few years ago, speaking of late-winter festivals) and caps (the Myrdal moose from our 2003 Norway in a Nutshell trip). The photo shows that my hair is getting a bit long. Last haircut was in July. Here is hoping the fig tree grows faster than my hair!
Also note behind me two of the freeze-damaged cherimoyas, now almost three weeks after the cold snap. The one to the left of the photo is the ‘Nata.’ Although it is losing a lot of its leaves on account of cold damage, an encouragingly large portion of the leaves remain green. The ‘Fino de Jete’ is just down the slope and has slightly more damage. The ‘Helmuts’ (out of view) and a seedling (which is visible over my left shoulder, beyond the Black Madeira) are both going to defoliate almost completely from the freeze. Farther in the background are the avocados, specifically a stand of tall ‘Zutanos’ that serve as windbreak/pollinators for the Hass grove. The avocado trees visible here have hardly a green leaf remaining.
Chag Sameach,** and may your day be fruitful!
** Is this greeting really appropriate? It is not as though this is Sukkot, after all. The greeting works for me inasmuch as I “observed” the New Year for Trees. See more about this “minor holiday” from the Jewish Global Environmental Network.