Deuteronomy 8:7-9. “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and grapes and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and dates…”
The 7 Species of food symbolizing the relationship of the Jewish people:
Wheat: Wheat is associated with the Eucharist. Israel’s climate is ideal for wheat growing. In biblical times bread was the staple of the local diet. Breads like challa and pita are popular just about everywhere today. Whole wheat products are absorbed more slowly by the body so you feel fuller longer.
Barley: Barley was the poor man’s staple in Bible days. It was eaten as barley cakes and in a kind of porridge. They even fed livestock barley. Now it’s one of the darlings of the culinary world. We use it in soups, stews and salads. In Israel it is still a basic ingredient for beer. Barley is good for our hearts, and a good source of vitamin E, a good antioxidant. It also helps reduce formation of blood clots.
Grapes and wine: Wine is part of our Eucharistic celebration. In ancient times, grapes were also used for seasoning and in vinegars. Grapes, particularly dark colored ones, are rich in iron. And don’t forget stuffed grape vine leaves – we make dolmas and use wild grape vine leaves that grow along the river where I live.
Figs: In Genesis we learn the significance of the fig leaves covering Adam and Eve. Figs were a common fruit during Bible times. The fig was eaten fresh and dried, in addition to being used to make a kind of honey. I have a fig tree which bears abundantly each year. Figs contain lots of fiber and potassium and are good for your heart, blood pressure and muscles and have other bone building nutrients.
Olives: Olives were a valuable commodity. The olive tree was the most prolific tree in Palestine and olives and their oil were necessary for everyday life, whether it was lighting lamps, anointing sick and dead, in offerings, skin care, medicines and in food. Olive oil was used in making cakes, unleavened bread and for spreading on bread. Olives contain monounsaturated fat and that helps your cardiovascular system. They also have vitamin E, which is an antioxidant. Olives have anti-inflammatory properties, as well, so they can help with joint issues, like arthritis.
Dates: David gave presents of food, including cake made with dates. Much of the Bible area was known in antiquity for their date palm tree groves. Dates are still a staple food among the Bedouins and date honey was a favored sweet. Dates were used for barter, as well. Dates signified food for eternal life. They’re a good source of fiber and have all of the B complex vitamins except B-12 and a lot of minerals plus iron and potassium.
Pomegranates: Pomegranate trees are prevalent in Israeli gardens even today. Along with eaten raw, in Bible times the pomegranate was used for making wine and also as a dye. With its many seeds, it’s a symbol of fertility. They’re called the good seeds, packed with cholesterol fighting antioxidants. Pomegranates are a great source of potassium. Pomegranate juice may also help to prevent prostate cancer and helps to prevent plaque build up in your arteries.
This recipe uses 2 of the 7 species: olive oil and dates!
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (I used dark)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup Soybean or canola
1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil
5 cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 cups sliced almonds
Dried fruit: 2 cups chopped dried dates or favorite fruit
Line a large cookie sheet w/parchment or spray with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 325.
Whisk syrup, sugar, extracts and salt and whisk in oils. Fold in oats, almonds, and seeds until coated.
Pour onto cookie sheet in thin, even layer and press mixture down until compact. Bake 35-40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Remove and cool to room temperature. Break into desired chunks. Stir in fruit. Store in airtight container up to 3 wks.
Tip from Rita’s kitchen:
To boost your omega 3’s, add to the oatmeal mixture:
1/4 cup Chia seeds (opt)
2 tablespoons flax seeds (opt)
Rita Nader Heikenfeld writes a weekly cooking column and blog for the Community Press, appears weekly on Sacred Heart Radio, and is the author of several cookbooks. An adjunct profesor at the University of Cincinnati, she is Macy’s Regional Culinary Professional (CCP) and is a Certified Modern Herbalist. She lives “in the sticks” outside Batavia, Ohio with her family, where they heat with wood, raise chickens for eggs, and grow their own produce and herbs.
Rita’s Bible Foods segment airs on the Son Rise Morning Show every Thursday morning at 7:22 am (rebroadcast Friday at 6:02 am). Tune in to hear her discuss the history behind each recipe and the scripture verses that inspired it. And of course, for cooking tips!