Jewish Seed Project
Where do our lives as Jewish farmers and gardeners intersect with the stories of seeds both ancient and modern?
How can we find, grow, and share culturally resonant seeds across our community?
Join us for an adventure in seed keeping, seed sharing models, and Cucumis melo, and contribute to the creation of JFN's seed project!
You don't have to be a grower to help!
Communicators, organizers, researchers, plant nerds, funders, writers, gardeners, farmers, linguists, chefs, foodies, artists, seed keepers, story tellers, and Torah, Talmud, Midrash, and Kabbalah interpreters are all essential parts of this emerging seed collective.
This season we'll be starting with one of the most ancient varieties mentioned in the Torah. Called qishu'im, but often translated to "cucumber", this fruit, more likely Cucumis melo, was a hairy melon eaten like a cucumber. Qishu'im, grown extensively in Egypt and reportedly pined after by the Children of Israel in Numbers 11:5 during our exile in the desert, still exists in many forms today.
We now have 18 different varieties to share with JFN growers and are looking for more. Together we'll grow them out, share photos and taste tests, and save seeds. We'll choose the ones that most accurately reflect the descriptions and images we can find from ancient times. Qishu'im will become the first seed shared across our network and we'll grow from there!
"The three cucurbits mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, the qishu’im, the avattihim, and the paqqu’ot sade, as well as several other cucurbits, are the subject of rabbinical commentary in the Mishna and the Tosefta. The citations from the Mishna and Tosefta below will be given according to the name of the massekhet (tractate), chapter number and statement number. Most significant is that the first four cucurbits described below were mentioned along with edible fruits of various other plant families on the subject
of tithing (Mishna, Ma’asrot 1:4) and therefore must have been food sources growing in Israel in the 2nd century.
The qishu’im were known to the Children of Israel from Egypt, who longed for them during their wanderings in the Sinai Desert (Numbers 11:5). No later than by the time of the first temple in Jerusalem, their cultivation in Judea
1446 Janick et al. — The Cucurbits of Mediterranean Antiquity must have been common, as there was a special word in Hebrew for a field of them, miqsha (Isaiah 1:8). Moreover, these qishu’im or qishu’in, or in the singular form, qishut, are the most frequently mentioned cucurbit in the Jewish commentary, reflecting their relative importance and widespread culture in the Israel of Roman times
Vesling (1640), in his supplement to Alpini’s De plantis Aegypti liber, presented an illustration, labelled Chate, which was clearly based on a plant of Cucumis melo having rather elongate, nearly rhomboidal fruits. The epithet ‘chate’, a blundered rendition of qatta (Loret, 1892), is used at present to designate a cultivar-group of C. melo that is distinguished by fruits having a length-to-broadest-width ratio of around 2 : 1 or 3 : 1 and that are not sweet, but are used when young, like cucumbers, raw, pickled or cooked (Pitrat et al., 2000). Feliks (1967, 1968) and Zohary (1982) concurred that the qishu’im of Biblical times were chate melons."
Want to nerd out?
Read these academic articles:
"The Cucurbits of Mediterranean Antiquity: Identification of Taxa from Ancient Images and Descriptions"
BY JULES JANICK, HARRY S. PARIS and DAVID C. PARRISH
Published in Annals of Botany Vol. 100, No. 7 (December 2007), pp. 1441-1457 (17 pages)
Published By: Oxford University Press
"Reflections on linguistics as an aid to taxonomical identification of ancient Mediterranean cucurbits: the Piqqus of the Faqqous"
BY JULES JANICK and HARRY S. PARISH
Meet the people:
K Greene (he/they) is founder of the first seed library in the United States, a project he germinated in Gardiner, NY. Greene and his partner Doug Muller grew the library into the Hudson Valley Seed Co., a national seed company and regional seed farm devoted to ethically producing seed for home gardeners and farmers and celebrating seeds through art. Today, Greene is the founder/director of Seedshed, a non-profit organization focused on seed justice.
K is the inspiration and expertise behind this project.
Masha Vernik (she/her) is a storyteller and organizer working to build a more just food system. She currently works at the Public Justice Food Project, taking on industrial animal agriculture. She is a gardener and loves having her hands in the soil, having worked on Local Roots Farm and volunteered at many others. She especially enjoys urban gardens and produced a short documentary called Common Roots about one in Boston. There, she studied International Relations at Boston University and was a climate justice organizer with the fossil fuel divestment and Sunrise movements. Her organizing extended into local politics and she served as the Campaign Manager for a Cambridge City Council election. She's at the beginning of her journey at the intersection between Judaism and agriculture and is excited to be coordinating the Jewish Seed Project!
If you watched the recording and you think you can help us with this special project by growing out some seeds, please fill out THIS FORM