Fruit or Vegetable? - Berakhot 36
Here they debate regarding various substances like wheat flour or pepper (since it comes from a tree). If raw food is processed into something else, does its blessing change? Does olive oil require the same blessing as an olive (yes), and flour the same as wheat (yes)? In the end, their general principle is that if processing leaves it “fundamentally the same”, it requires the same blessing. In modern times, we have tried to make distinctions between “fruit” and “vegetables,” but that has not been perfect. A tomato is officially a fruit (fleshy material covering seeds), but so is a green pepper – try to find either in the fruit section of the supermarket!
If one categorizes foodstuffs by blessings, one may also take note of where it was produced – food grown in Ha-aretz (“The Land” – Israel) has specific religious requirements for its growth and processing that do not apply to food grown elsewhere. As one famous example in addition to tithing rules cited on today’s page, one is required to leave the land unplanted every seven years. We may pay more attention to ethical and environmental rather than ritual and religious concerns, but we are not the first generation to be interested in where our food is grown, and in what conditions.
Rabbi Adam Chalom