Agricultural Gifts To The Poor: A Mitzvah For Sukkot

apple jewish cake i made.— by Ronit Treatman

It is a mitzvah to give gifts to the poor during Sukkot.  Which type of gift?  The farmers of Ancient Israel were required to give a tithe, ma’aser, of their harvest (Numbers 18:21-24) to the Levites.  This harvest consisted of wheat, barley, oat, spelt, and rye.  In addition, they had to give a tithe of their production of wine, olive oil, fruit, and cattle.  In modern times, most of us live in cities.  How can we fulfill this mitzvah?

More after the jump.
Those who garden, can choose to donate ten percent of their crops to their local food pantry. Those who don’t garden can go to a pick-your-own farm.  This is a really fun way to connect with nature and our Ancient Israelite past.  Participating in a harvest is a meaningful way to share fresh produce with the poor.  

In the Philadelphia area, there is a very efficient way to accomplish this.  You may select from several pick-your-own orchards. Sukkot is apple and pumpkin season in Pennsylvania. If you pick ten pounds of apples, you should donate one pound to the poor.  

Which organization can you trust to distribute your donations to the needy?  Philabundance has teamed up with the pick-your-own orchards to collect extra fruit for exactly this purpose. We went apple picking in Linvilla Orchards. Philabundance will accept donations right at the orchard, and distribute them directly to those who need them.  Alternatively, you may contact Philabundance to donate your fruit at your convenience. If you would like to help the needy in Israel, Leket is a wonderful organization that gleans the fields and distributes this harvest all over the county.

What can you prepare with the apples and pumpkins that you kept for yourself?  Here are some tasty suggestions you may serve to guests in your sukkah.apple bread 002

Jewish Apple Cake
Adapted from Traci & Jeff Poole

  • 4 Large, freshly picked apples
  • ½ cup orange juice (squeeze your own for best flavor)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 ½ cups sugar
  • 5 tablespoons sugar (do not add to the previous sugar)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Peel and core the apples.  Slice them.  Mix them in a bowl with 4 teaspoons of cinnamon and 5 tablespoons of sugar.
  3. Set the bowl aside.
  4. Mix all the other ingredients in a separate bowl.
  5. Oil a bundt pan.
  6. Pour some batter in.  Add a layer of the apple mixture.
  7. Keep alternating between layers of batter and apples.  
  8. The top layer should be the apple mixture.
  9. Bake the cake for 1 ½ hours to 1 ¾ hours.

This aromatic cake is always popular, and may be served to guests in your sukkah at any time.pumpkin bread - art every day month 08 - day 29

Fresh Pumpkin Bread From A Pumpkin
Adapted from Laurie Bennet

  • One whole pumpkin
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 cups sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 ½ cups unbleached flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  1. Place the whole pumpkin in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven.
  2. Bake it for one hour.
  3. Allow the pumpkin to cool.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Slice the pumpkin in half.
  6. Reserve the seeds for roasting.
  7. Scoop out the flesh.
  8. Mix one cup of mashed pumpkin with the other ingredients.
  9. Oil three 7×3 inch loaf pans and distribute the batter equally between them.
  10. Bake for 50 minutes.

This moist, fragrant bread is a perfect treat for the sukkah.

Celebratory Fall Harvest Soups for Sukkot

–by Ronit Treatman

Other than bread, we are not instructed to serve any specific dishes during Sukkot.  The point of this festival is to celebrate the fall harvest.  A wonderful way to connect to nature is to cook with what is in season locally.  In Pennsylvania we are blessed with a bountiful fall harvest.  Hearty homemade vegetable soups accompanied by an assortment of breads are a wonderful way for your family and guests to warm up during the chilly fall evenings in the sukkah.

You can source your local vegetables by gathering your own crops from your garden, picking vegetables yourself at a farm, being a member of a Community Supported Agriculture group, or shopping at your local farmer’s market, coop, or supermarket.  Fresh seasonal produce will result in the most flavorful soups.  

Soup and bread recipes after the jump.
Some fruits and vegetables that are harvested in Pennsylvania in the fall are broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, lima beans, peppers, pumpkins, and apples.  Here is a recipe for a pareve harvest soup that incorporates some of these fresh vegetables adapted from Casey’s Café.


Spicy Fall Harvest Soup

  • 2 or 3 of any kind of squash such as butternut squash, pumpkin, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, or hubbard.
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 2 rutabagas
  • green onions
  • cilantro
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 3 cups of coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
  • 1 cup sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tablespoon red Thai curry
  • 2 tablespoons Garam Masala
  • 1 tablespoons Ground coriander
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cut the squash in half.  Remove the seeds and rub the inside with olive oil.  Place on a cookie sheet.
  2. Place the onion, sweet potatoes, rutabags, and turnips in a porcelain baking dish.  Add ½ cup of water, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cover with aluminum foil.
  3. Bake all of these vegetables for 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Peel the squash.
  4. Puree all the vegetables in a food processor.  
  5. Place the puree in a stockpot with 4 cups of water, the vegetable broth, and coconut milk.
  6. Add ginger, chili sauce, coriander, curry, and garam masala to taste.

You can chop up green onion and cilantro to garnish.

Serve with whole grain corn bread for a gluten-free feast.  Here is a recipe adapted from The Fresh Loaf.

Whole Grain Corn Bread

  • 2 cups ground corn meal
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ cups of soymilk
  • 1 ¾ tablespoons of vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.  
  3. Oil an 8X8 inch porcelain baking dish.  
  4. Pour the batter into the dish.  
  5. Bake for 30 minutes.

Pennsylvania is one of the largest growers of mushrooms in the world.  The rich variety of mushrooms we can get in Kennet Square is not to be overlooked.  Phillips Mushroom Farms grow White, Portobello, Baby Bella, Crimini, Shiitake, Oyster, Maitake, Beech, Enoki, Royal Trumpet, and Pom Pom mushrooms.  Below is an adaptation of Ina Garten’s mushroom soup recipe.


Mushroom Medley Soup

  • 2 cups thinly sliced assorted fresh mushrooms
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 leeks, diced
  • 1 cup minced cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon minced thyme
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup white wine
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup half and half
  1. In a large stockpot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Sautee the onion, one cup of mushrooms, and carrot.  Season with salt, pepper, and thyme.  When the vegetables have softened, after about 15 minutes, add 6 cups of water.  Bring the mixture to a boil, and then allow to simmer for 30 minutes.
  2. Take another stockpot, and heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the leeks.  Let them soften slowly over low heat.  After 20 minutes, add the remaining mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes.  Stir in the flour, and then add the wine.  Pour in the mushroom stock from the other pot and stir.  
  3. Simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the heavy cream and half and half.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve hot, with a crusty baguette.  Here is a recipe adapted from Food.com


Fresh Baguette

  • 4 1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  1. Mix water, sugar, and yeast together.  Allow to foam, and then add flour and salt.  Knead well.  Place in an oiled bowl and cover with a kitchen towel.  Allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours.  
  2. Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  3. Form loaf on a cookie sheet.
  4. Prepare an ovenproof bowl with water.
  5. Place cookie sheet with loaf and bowl of water in the oven.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.

A warming, sweet, cinnamony fall fruit soup is the perfect end to the Sukkah feast.  


You may use freshly harvested Pennsylvania heirloom apples that are good for cooking such as:

  • Red Gravenstein:  An apple variety that was brought to Pennsylvania from Germany in the 1600s.
  • Grimes Golden:  This apple variety is believed to have been planted in West Virginia by Johnny Appleseed in 1795.  
  • Cox Orange Pippin:  This apple was brought from England in the 1830s.  It matures to a beautiful red color, and is excellent for cooking.
  • Calville Blanc:  A French apple grown for King Louis XIII, it has a tart flavor.
  • Newtown Pippin:  This variety was grown for export by Benjamin Franklin in the 1700s.

You can order these apples from #1 Farm, at [email protected].  


Fall Fruit Harvest Soup

  • 1 apple, diced
  • 1 pear, diced
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, diced
  • 3 plums, diced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Raw honey to taste (optional)
  1. Place the apple, pear, plums, and cranberries in a pan.  
  2. Cover with water and bring to a boil.  
  3. Add the cinnamon stick.  
  4. Lower the heat and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Stir in honey if desired.  Enjoy hot.

This soup goes well with fresh, hot pumpkin bread.  It is a pareve recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.


Pumpkin Bread

  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup roasted pumpkin seeds
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix all the ingredients except the roasted pumpkin seeds in a bowl.
  3. Pour into a 9X5X3 inch loaf pan which has been coated with olive oil.  
  4. Decorate the top with roasted pumpkin seeds.
  5. Bake for 60 minutes.

As the fall days grow shorter and cooler, the yearly ritual is upon us.  We celebrate the fall harvest together in our sukkot.  Whether you are hosting or visiting, offering a delicious, homemade warming soup and a fresh loaf of fragrant bread is the perfect way to bond with friends and family.