Posts Tagged ‘quince’

Some further thoughts on the ‘Apple of Eve’

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Marcus Roberts, founder of the Anglo-Jewish heritage organisation J Trails (http://www.jtrails.org.uk/about/the-founders), offers his thoughts on the ‘Apple of Eve’ referred to in a writ copied onto the Fine Rolls in January 1252 (see also CFR, 1251-2, no. 173) and discussed in the Fine of the Month for December 2011)…

The identification of the ‘apple of eve’ as an etrog is interesting.  However, the identification of the apple of Eve in the Torah has taxed rabbinical  scholars, who tend to agree that the tree in the Garden was not an apple tree, but that the ‘beautiful fruit’ may well have been the quince, which many considered the fairest of all fruit.

Jews in the Mediterranean and Middle East have always regarded the quince very highly in cooking and the highly perfumed fruit has always been regarded as of ornamental utility.  It is not known when quinces were introduced into England, but Chaucer mentions them in the 14th century, so it is not impossible that such a tree may have been a rare early import growing in the Curia of the synagogue, or that the fruit was in the synagogue Sukkah at Succot as a decoration, or in the synagogue itself at Shavuot?  It is also interesting that the earliest reference to the cherry in England  occurs in a 13th century Hebrew text regarding benedictions, so this would not be the first time that medieval Jews were associated with the first appearance of a particular fruit, though the text indicated that this apple was of great value, whatever it was.

However, this speculation aside, it may well also be the case that whatever the apple in the synagogue was, it could have been a disputed benefaction to the synagogue.  There are many cases across the centuries, when Jews have been accused of theft of items from synagogues, when it turns out that they had originally donated it and were seizing it back, due to a dispute with the synagogue, or a synagogue was dissolving.  Jewish Law allows the original owners to take a benefaction back in certain circumstances, which leads to a rather grey area where accusations can be made.  Given that the allegation was reported in January, some months after the festivals of Sukkot and Shavuot, it makes it a little less likely to be a piece of fruit, though it was traditional to dry out the etrog, or to turn it to marmalade.