For thousands of years, the Seven Species (Shivat Haminim in Hebrew) have played an important role in the food of Jews in Israel and the religious traditions of Judaism. In Deuteronomy Israel is described as a "land of wheat and barley, of [grape] vines, figs and pomegranates, and land of olives for oil and [date] honey." These were the main produce of the land of Israel; the dietary staples.
Many references to these basic foods can be found in Bible. The offerings of the first fruits (bikkurim) brought to the Temple in Jerusalem on Shavuot were brought only from these seven species, despite the the fact that Israel was blessed with many other crops.
The seven species are traditionally eaten on Tu Bishvat, the Jewish "New Year for Trees", on Sukkot, the "Festival of Booths", and on Shavuot, the "Festival of Weeks". In halakha (Jewish law), they are considered more important than other fruits, and a special berakhah (blessing) is recited after eating them. Additionally, the blessing prior to eating them precedes those of other food items, except for bread.
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.
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