Sukkot, the “festival of the booths” reflects a time when the Jews wandered in the desert during their exile from Egypt, living in huts called sukkot (sukkah in the singular). It is also a harvest festival, celebrated at the end of the growing season or fall, and the temporary structure is reminiscent of a harvester’s hut, which was set out in the fields so that Jews could keep an eye on their crops.
Today we continue to celebrate Sukkot by building the sukkah, the temporary structure with three sides and a roof made out of branches. Meals are eaten with family and friends, and in remembrance of the bounty of the Holy Land, we hold and shake four species of plants: palm, myrtle, willow (lulav) and citron (etrog). It is a time to reflect, to be thankful for the bounty of the fall harvest and to take in the beauty of the starry night sky.
I can’t think of a better time than Sukkot to pay a visit to your local farmers market, where the change of seasons to cooler weather makes an early morning visit enchanting. Most of the summer fruits and veggies are still available through the first couple of weeks of September, but they quickly give way to tables bursting with colorful fall fruits and vegetables.
From leafy greens to golden sweet potatoes and squash, the farmers are harvesting the last big bounty before the winter sets in. Handmade ciders and local honey are one of the delights of the season, with natural sweetness that can’t be matched. Many varieties of red, pink and green apples are piled high on tables, and the first-of-the-season juicy, ripe Bartlett or Bosc pears draw us closer with their sweet aromas. They are impossible to resist, and into the bag they go, where they will be the stars in a beautiful fall dessert.