Horticulture in Bibical Times

San Antonio Express News
Sunday, December 25, 2005

By Dr. Jerry Parsons

When we think of religious holidays, we think of the Bible. The Bible is a collection of sacred writings. It is a history of mankind from the beginning. Intertwined in this history are horticultural phenomenon which we are still experiencing today.

The need for a horticulturist became apparent early in this history of the world — on the third day as a matter of fact. Genesis 1:11 12 explains that:
” 11. God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

12. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

13. And the evening and morning were the third day.”

It is also significant that God felt man belonged in a garden. Genesis 2:7 8 recounts that “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden and there he put the man whom he had formed.” Some believe that Genesis 1:29 – “God said, ‘Behold, I give you every seed bearing plant that is upon all the earth, and every tree that has seed bearing fruit; they shall be yours for food'” — indicates that man was originally intended to be a vegetarian.

In fact, man may have been created to be a gardener. According to Genesis 2:15, “The Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. If this interpretation is valid, then women owe a debt of gratitude to gardening. It seems that Adam was having problems in Genesis 2:18, “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make an appropriate helper for him.” So woman was created!

Not much is mentioned in the Bible about the vegetables with which we are accustomed. This is because vegetables have only recently become “domesticated,” i.e., many of the most common vegetables were discovered by explorers of the New World. Vegetables which are mentioned in the Bible include herbs of all kinds, mandrakes (a narcotic, short stemmed solanaceous herb, Mandragora officinarum, with a fleshy root), cucumbers, melons, gourds, beans, and corn. The urge for fresh vegetables caused considerable discontent among the children of Israel as they complained to Moses in Numbers 11:5 6, “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the melons, and the garlic. But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside the manna, before our eyes.” It seems that manna from heaven could not replace the enjoyment of fresh vegetables! In Jonah 4:6 8, Jonah encountered a serious lesson in vegetables, pest control which we still experience today. The verses read:
“-6. And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceedingly glad of the gourd.

” 7. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that is withered.

” 8. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.”

Sound familiar to the squash vine borer?

Insect control could have presented quite a problem in Biblical times since modern pesticides were not available. Although the thought of organically produced, non-contaminated food may sound like an ideal situation to many, it may have meant that the majority of vegetables produced could not be eaten. In accordance with Genesis 1:29 (quoted above), all vegetables and fruits are kosher. Not only that, they are gender less and may be served with either milk or meat foods. The only thing to worry about is that insects haven’t invaded the food, since food invaded by insects could not be eaten. For further elucidation, see A Guide to the Jewish Dietary Laws by Rabbi Dr. Y. Kemelman.

For additional information concerning vegetables of the Bible as well as herbs and spices, see http://www.plantanswers.com/bible.htm

Dr. Jerry Parsons is a Professor for Texas A&M University and a Texas Cooperative Extension Horticulturist for over 30 years in South Central Texas. For more information on this or other horticulture topics, go to www.plantanswers.com and our County Extension website at http://bexar-tx.tamu.edu.

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