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Tu BiSh'vat

“Happy birthday to trees! Happy birthday to trees!” Yes, that’s Lila from Shaboom! singing and tree-hugging to kick off a short lesson about Tu Bishvat

How much do you know about the Jewish holiday of Tu BiSh'vat? Take this quiz, if you are up to the challenge.

You may have heard of a Passover seder, but did you know that many people celebrate Tu BiSh'vat with seders also? Learn about how to host your own Tu BiSh'vat seder.

Enjoy reading this Tu BiSh’vat story with your children, then download the printable version for them to create their own story booklet. Use the spaces provided to let them make their own illustrations.

Tu BiSh'vat reminds us of what new life can look like. When trees begin to blossom, even during winter time, joy can shine through. Listen to this bluegrass take on an old favorite by Matt Check and Naomi Less, to celebrate TuBiSh'vat. We dare you not to get up and dance!

On Tu BiSh’vat, we celebrate the “New Year of the Trees.” This holiday, which falls on the 15th day (tu) of the Hebrew month of Sh’vat, is also known as the birthday of the trees. We say “Happy birthday” and “Happy new year” to the trees sprouting up after winter and to the flowers beginning to bud in eager anticipation of the spring

Vegetarian Mushroom Barley Soup

By: 
Tina Wasserman

This recipe is featured in Tina Wasserman's newest book, Entrée to Judaism for Families, filled with tools to help children learn to cook with confidence, with clear, step-by-step instructions for every recipe and tips for adults to make the experience safe and rewarding.

How long have Jewish people been eating mushrooms? A long time! Mushrooms were mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud (N’darim 55B), and wild mushrooms were in such abundance in ancient Israel during the rainy season that discussions arose about putting a tax on them. In later generations, mushrooms were especially important to poor Ashkenazic Jews. They were easily found in the forests, and since spices were expensive, their flavor, especially when dried, was a boost to a relatively bland diet.

One favorite dish of the Ashkenazim that survived the move from the shtetl to North America was the hearty mushroom-potato-barley soup called krupnick. In Europe, krupnick was mostly starchy potatoes seasoned with a little meat and mushroom. Today, rich flanken meat is added in large strips, and mushrooms become the major flavoring ingredient. Potatoes are often replaced by lima beans as well.

Moving with the times, I have taken the delicious beef-based mushroom barley soup from my first book and created a vegetarian version that is just as rich and delicious, and probably more like the original krupnick!

The secret to the thickness of this soup is the lima beans. They are peeled and therefore disintegrate into the stock when fully cooked. Don’t panic—they peel very easily when properly soaked and children love to pop them out of their skins.

Ingredients: 
1¼ cups dried large lima beans
1 ounce (¾ cup loosely packed) dried imported mushrooms, preferably porcini
2 quarts water or packaged vegetable or mushroom broth
1 mushroom bouillon cube (optional)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
8 ounces white mushrooms, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 carrot, diced
½ cup medium pearl barley
Directions: 
  1. Cover the lima beans in a 2-quart glass bowl with 1 inch of water. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, and then let them soak for 1 or more hours or until the skins easily slide off.
  2. Place dried mushrooms in a 1-quart glass bowl and cover with water. Microwave for 2 minutes, and let them sit in the water while you peel the lima beans.
  3. Meanwhile, remove the skins from the lima beans by gently squeezing on one end; the bean will just slide out. Place beans in a 4-quart pot.
  4. Carefully lift the mushrooms out of the water, and gently squeeze them over the bowl. Save the juices. Chop the soaked mushrooms and set aside.
  5. Add the water or broth and the chopped, soaked mushrooms to the lima beans in the pot. Strain the mushroom liquid into the pot as well.
  6. Heat a 10-inch frying pan for 20 seconds. Add the oil and heat for 10 seconds. Add the diced onion and sauté for 2 minutes.
  7. Add the celery and fresh mushrooms to the pan and cook until wilted and translucent. Add this mixture to the soup pot along with the diced carrot, and salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally so that the beans do not stick to the pot.
  9. Add the barley and cook for ½ hour to 1 hour longer or until the barley is tender and the lima beans disappear. Check the seasoning. Add more broth if the soup is too thick (it will thicken even more when cool).

Kitchen Conversations

Mushroom barley soup is a good example of making the most of simple, inexpensive ingredients. Such recipes are often our favorite comfort foods.

  • What’s your favorite comfort food?
  • Why?
Tina's Tidbits: 
  • To keep a child’s attention and for safety reasons, do steps 1 and 2 before you start the recipe with a young child. Older children can work a recipe in stages, but younger ones work in the present. This is where “soak overnight” is a good step to take!
  • If you own a pressure cooker, lima beans can be cooked for 15 minutes on low setting, and then they will be ready to peel.
  • Do not make the mistake of buying small lima beans. It will take you forever to peel them!
  • Olive oil mimics the taste of traditional goose fat, and sautéing the vegetables addsdepth to the flavor of this soup.

I’ve always been fascinated and inspired by things that spoon, nestle and stack... from measuring spoons to matrushka dolls, husk tomatoes and garden-fresh peas in a pod.

Watch these Shalom Sesame videos with your children to learn about Tu Bishvat, then try some of the fun discussion ideas and activities recommended by Reform Jewish educators.

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