Healthy, Sustainable Passover Resources
Pesach is the Jewish tradition’s “eat seasonal” poster child. Also known as “Chag Ha-Matzot” (possibly a holiday celebrating the new barley harvest) and Chag Ha-Aviv (“holiday of spring”), Passover is a time to notice and celebrate the coming of spring. The seder plate abounds with seasonal symbols: the roasted lamb bone celebrates lambs born in spring; karpas symbolizes the first green sprouts peaking out of the thawed ground; and a roasted egg recalls fertility and rebirth.
Pesach offers a perfect opportunity to combine the wisdom of a traditional Jewish holiday with our contemporary desire to live healthily and sustainable in our world. For example, some families put an orange or olive on their seder plate to recognize women’s rights and solidarity with Middle East peace. In the same spirit, The Jew & The Carrot offers this list Healthy & Sustainable Passover Resources to help you celebrate the holiday in sustainable style. And we’d also love to hear your ideas at tips at jcarrot dot org.
Get rid of your Chametz – sustainably. You don’t have to douse your house in poisonous chemicals—noxious to both you and the people who work in the factories that produce them—to get rid of your chametz (bread products and crumbs which are literally, and ritually, cleared before Pesach). Try using natural, non-toxic cleaning products, and scrub away. Eco-cleaning products we like: Seventh Generation and Ecover.
What Would Moses Do? – Moses brought the enslaved Jews out of Mitzrayim towards freedom. Sadly, a different form of slavery exists today, both in Israel and the rest of the world. According to estimates by NGOs, a few hundred to a few thousand people have been illegally trafficked into Israel for sexual exploitation or labor. Approximately 70% of these sex workers are women. Learn more about this issue, and how you can help, here.
SUSTAINABLE SEDER PLATE
Every Charoset tells a story. – Charoset’s mixture of apples and nuts is already healthy and delicious and, when made with local apples, sustainable. Charoset also offers you the chance to explore other cultures within the Jewish Diaspora. Google the word “Charoset” to find recipes from Russia, Spain, Holland, Yemen, Turkey, Surinam… – or ask your guests to bring their own favorite charoset recipe and have a taste-test.
Fairly Trade Pecans. – Equal Exchange recently launched a new line of fairly-traded pecans grown by an agricultural co-operative in Southwest Georgia<. What better way to infuse your charoseth with the taste of justice? They also make a great pre-dinner nibble for hungry seder guests. Buy Equal Exchange brand Fair Trade pecans here.
Sprout your own Karpas. – If you can’t find locally grown greens to dip for karpas, sprout your own! Although many sprouts come from corn, soybeans, and other chametz or kitnyot, in just 2-3 days, you can have fresh, delicious quinoa sprouts that you “grew” yourself!
Horseradish doesn’t grow in a bottle. Buy and grate fresh horseradish root for your seder plate. When it comes time for the Hillel sandwich, hold up an ungrated root so your guests know where that bitter stuff comes from. Make sure to have some of the beet-dyed, jarred horseradish on hand, just in case your Aunt Bess looks forward to it every year.
Free-range betza (egg). – Buy organic, free-range eggs, and be willing to pay slightly more for them. They taste better, didn’t cause suffering to the animals who laid them, and support farmers who are making it possible for you to eat good food.
Roast a beet. – If you’re going vegetarian for your seder (see below), substitute a roasted beet for the roasted lamb shank. Or follow The Jew & The Carrot reader, Sarah Fenner’s suggestion: “In place of the shankbone in my home, we have often roasted a “pascal yam” instead!”
THE SEDER TABLE: FOOD & DECORATION
Enjoy your flowers on Pesach—and all spring. Fresh bouquets make beautiful centerpieces, but only last a few days, and are often grown with pesticides. Try a sustainable alternative like potted tulips. Potted herbs also make a beautiful, inexpensive centerpiece, and make your table smell great! You can buy potted thyme, rosemary, and lavender etc., at garden nursery or farmer’s market. At the end of the seder, give your centerpieces as gifts to your guests. If you definitely want cut-flower centerpieces, go organic!
Bring on the hors d’oeuvres – After you bless and eat the karpas, vegetables and dip, fruits, and cheese are all permitted. Save your table from starvation and distraction with a few snacks – everyone will have a better time.
Serve local / ethically-sourced meat.- Meat dishes like chicken soup with matzah balls and brisket are traditional favorites for Pesach. Try buying your meat from the person who raised it (or as close to that as possible. Where to shop: farmers’ markets, meat order co-ops, local butcher shops (ask themwhere the meat comes from). If you’re looking for kosher organic meat, try ordering from Wise Kosher, which is double certified organic and kosher.
Host a vegetarian or vegan seder. Even if you regularly eat meat, Pesach is a great time to eat lower on the food chain. Think of it as getting rid of your “gastronomical chametz.” Menu ideas: almond quinoa salad (quinoa is Kosher for Pesach!), matza lasagna, vegetarian matzah ball soup, roasted new potatoes with rosemary, Israeli salad, borscht, garlic sautéed fiddleheads…Find the recipes here.
Host a potluck seder. – Or at least accept offers of help with the preparation. A sustainable seder also means not wearing out the host!
Buy vegetables at your farmer’s market – Go a few weeks early and chat with the sellers to see what they’ll have available the first week of April. In many parts of the country, green options will be slim, but you may find salad greens, cabbage, fiddleheads, spinach, as well as root vegetables in cold storage (carrots, potatoes, onions, squash, beets) and apples and pears. Consider making at least one dish all local, and feature it at your seder.
Serve local, organic wine – Find out ahead of time what your local wine store has in stock—especially if you plan to buy a lot of bottles. If they don’t have anything, ask them to order a case on your behalf. There aren’t many kosher organic wines available, but one or two are Kosher for Pesach. (See our list of kosher organic wine). Consider paying a little more at a locally-owned store—sustainable means supporting local businesses, too.
Use recycled or plant-based disposables. – Pesach is a time when many families break out the fine china and heirloom silverware. But if you’re using disposable plates this year, use post-consumer waste paper or plant-based ones. More info on this here and here.