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Meet your Maror

Gila Arnold

They come to us all neatly bundled, washed, and ready to eat. But how do those perfectly wrapped bags of romaine lettuce get to our supermarket shelves? And can we be so sure that when we sit down to the Seder, our maror is really bug-free?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

It ranks right up there with bargaining for the afikomen and watching Uncle Yitzy jiggle the kos shel Eliyahu and insisting that “some mysterious guest” must have drunk from it: pictures of Zeide’s face turning bright red from a large helping of horseradish maror feature prominently in many a youthful Pesach Seder memory. But, despite generations of gastronomic mesirus nefesh, the Gemara, as later codified by the Shulchan Aruch, does not consider horseradish to be the ideal vegetable for performing the mitzvah of Maror. Rather, from the five possible types of herbs listed in the Mishnah, the Gemara hits upon the mild-flavored romaine lettuce (known as chazeres or chasah) as the best way of fulfilling the requirement. So were our ancestors simply gluttons for punishment? Actually, for much of history, romaine lettuce was unattainable — either literally so, or because of the levels of bug infestation found among the leafy heads. It’s a recent luxury that we are able to enjoy romaine for our maror, and in our year-round salads, without the worry of ingesting a helping of sheratzim along with it. Let us follow our lettuce, as it makes its journey from tiny seedling to leafy green — sans pesky bugs — to grace your Pesach table.   

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