The Seven Species (Shivat Haminim in Hebrew) are the seven types of fruits and grains named in the Torah (Deuteronomy 8:8) as the main produce of the land of Israel. In ancient times these foods were staples of the Israelite diet. They were also important in the ancient Jewish religion because one of the Temple tithes derived from these seven foods. The tithe was called the bikkurim, which meant "first fruits."
Today the seven species are still important agricultural items in modern Israel but they no longer dominate the produce of the country as they once did. On the holiday of Tu B'Shvat it has become traditional for Jews to eat from the seven species.
The Seven Species
Deuteronomy 8:8 tells us that Israel was "a land of wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of oil olives and date honey."
The seven species are:
- Wheat (chitah in Hebrew)
- Barley (se'orah in Hebrew)
- Grapes (gefen in Hebrew), usually consumed as wine
- Figs (te'enah in Hebrew)
- Pomegranates (rimon in Hebrew)
- Olives (zayit in Hebrew), usually consumed in oil form
- Dates (tamar or d'vash in Hebrew)
The biblical verse from Deuteronomy does not actually mention palm dates but instead uses the word "d'vash" as the seventh species, which literally translates to honey. In ancient times the palm date was often made into a form of honey by mashing the dates and cooking them with water until they thickened into a syrup. It is generally thought that when the Torah mentions "honey" it is usually referring to palm date honey and not the honey produced by bees. This is why dates were included in the seven species instead of bee honey.
Almonds: The "Eighth Species"
While not technically one of the seven species, almonds (shaked in Hebrew) have become a sort of unofficial eighth species due to their close association with Tu B'Shvat. Almond trees grow all over Israel today and they tend to bloom right around the time that Tu B'Shvat usually occurs. Because of this almonds are also often eaten with the actual seven species on Tu B'Shvat.