Gems in Israel
Specializing in Custom Private Tours of Israel and Israel's Lesser Known Tourist Attractions, the Gems.

October/November 2001  
ISSN: 1527-9812  


Israeli Cuisine?
Eating Well While Doing Good
The Biblical Seven Species
Sabich - The Alternate Israeli Fast Food
Name that Fruit
Nehalim - Where Three Streams Converge
Book Review - The Foods of Israel Today
Food & Dining Glossary
Leg of Lamb with Olive Sauce
Hearty Mushroom Barley Soup
Eggplant Salad
Lilitís Portobello Mushroom Burger
Green Salad with Pomegranates & Fig Dressing
Homemade Marzipan Stuffed Dates
Submit Your Favorite Recipe
Name that Fruit

This is a common evergreen tree with large oval to elliptical leaves, belonging to the Laurel family, which also includes cinnamon, camphor, and sassafras. It bears a fruit that tastes like a vegetable.

Seeds found in caves have been determined to be nearly 10,000 years old and are cited as proof of the fruits early use by humans. This fruit first reached Great Britain in the 17th century, but were a rarity for nearly 300 years after their discovery, and did not achieve widespread popularity until Israel took up their production on a vast commercial scale after the Second World War.

World consumption increased substantially from 1960 to 1980, and by 1990 production was almost 1.5 million tons! They are now grown commercially in Israel, Turkey, Spain, France, Chile, Brazil, South Africa,Mexico, Hawaii, Florida, Australia, California, and some Caribbean islands.

Even though Mexico is the worlds largest producer, the U.S. banned importation of this fruit from Mexico for 83 years, from 1914 until 1997. It is an important commercial tree crop, which has its biggest sales days in the U.S. around Superbowl Sunday, during which time some 6,000 tons are consumed in America. However, the largest number of dishes that include this fruit are found in Israel.

In Martinique it is used with salt cod to make feroce and in Africa the leaves are used to make a sparkling, slightly alcoholic drink known as babine. Some countries like these fruits cooked, some raw; some use it as a hot dog topping, some use it in ice cream. They are also used in soups (both hot and cold),sandwiches, salads, hors d'oeuvre, and souffles.

One ancient culture even made a special sauce containing this fruit to use as a topping for certain worms! Leaf and seed extracts have been used for a variety of medical applications, including treatment of diarrhea and dysentery and as an antibiotic.

Some species can withstand temperatures as low as 20 degrees F if not prolonged. They do best some distance from ocean influence, but do not do well in the desert interiors.

The leaves are egg-shaped, dark green with pale veins, and can be 4 to 12 inches long. Some varieties have leaves that are scentless, while others bear leaves that can have a pronounced anise scent when crushed and have medicinal use. The leaves normally remain on the tree for 2 to 3 years.

The flowers are with yellow or greenish. Some varieties have flowers that open in the first morning as females, close in the afternoon, and open the next afternoon as males. Another variety has flowers that open in the afternoon as female, close that evening, and reopen as male the next morning.

Fruit is borne 2 to 3 years after planting, and well cared for trees are productive for many years. The fruit takes 9 to 15 months to mature, and ranges in size from that of a small gherkin weighing 1 ounce, up to 1 foot long and 4 pounds in weight. The smallest variety is seedless.

The fruit of this tree is low in vitamins A and C but rich in B vitamins and minerals.Unusual for a fruit, the sugar content DECREASES rapidly during ripening. They are high in potassium (about twice the level of bananas)and are also sources of protein, vitamin E, calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. The average fruit contains 17 vitamins and minerals. They contain nearly twice the energy of an equivalent weight of meat.


Additional facts:

Avocados will not ripen on the tree, but must be cut from the tree for ripening to begin. The leaves supply a hormone to the fruit that prevents ripening; when the fruit is harvested this cuts off the supply of this inhibiting substance and starts the production of ethylene. That is why the best way to store avocados is to leave them on the tree, sometimes for up to 7 or 8 months. Another unique feature of avocados is that if deprived of oxygen (as in a plastic bag) the ripening process is halted. When oxygen is restored, the fruit will not ripen, but will get soft and spoil.

Source: Reprinted with permission from the The Food Reference Newsletter

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