“The first time Tu Bishvat – Rosh Ha’shanah La-Ilanot – New Year of trees – is mentioned in the Mishna (the book of the Oral Torah) is in connection with tithing of fruit.
According to the sages at this point the tree has
supped the winter rains and is starting to produce fruit and therefore it is possible to calculate the tenth of the crop that is due as a tax to the Temple. As it was a purely administrative holiday no liturgy was created.
After the destruction of the temple the day, which has lost all its agricultural and administrative relevance developed into a minor holiday. The symbolic consumption of fruit was meant to affirm the Diaspora’s allegiance, to the land of Israel.
The land which is referred to in Deuteronomy 8:8 as ‘a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs and pomegranates, of olive trees and (date) honey’.
In the European Diaspora dried fruit – the only fruits that are available when the holiday occurs, at the end the European winter, were symbolically eaten on the day.
The custom of eating dried fruit on Tu B’Shvat originated in the Diaspora; the idea was to honor fruits of the Promised Land.
Raisins, figs and dates where eaten by those who could afford them while the poor celebrated the holiday with Carobs – which were cheap and readily available. Nuts where also eaten, almonds in particular.
Being, traditionally, the tree to herald the spring the almond is the symbol of rebirth and purity.
Here is an idea for a simple sweet for this holiday (or any other day…): Drunk figs filled with almonds (that incorporate vine/grapes/wine with figs and almonds.
Place dried figs in a plastic or glass container. Pour red wine, brandy, a little bit of date-honey (date-molasses) or regular bee-honey over them and a bit of fennel seeds.
Let the dried figs marinade overnight in the red wine, a bit of brandy, a little bit of honey or date-honey and fennel seeds (just a bit, for anise flavor). Store in the fridge and insert a whole almond into each fig once the figs have soaked the liquid.
More about the BEAUTIFUL symbolism of Tu-Bishvat: