For private communication, write to eliezer(no space)e at aol

Monday, September 30, 2013

Noach, Bereishis 6:12. Grafted Vegetables.

Hashem looked upon the Earth and saw that his creatures were interbreeding, that mankind's debasement had so ruinously distanced the Earth from Hashem's plan that even animals were transgressing the natural order of His creation.

וירא אלהים את-הארץ, והנה נשחתה: כי-השחית כל-בשר את-דרכו, על-הארץ
And God saw the earth, and behold it had become corrupted, for all flesh had corrupted its way on the earth.

כי השחית כל בשר: אפילו בהמה חיה ועוף נזקקין לשאינן מינן
for all flesh had corrupted: Even cattle, beasts, and fowl would mate with those who were not of their own species.  [from Tanchuma Noach 12.]

This, of course, refers to animals, not to plants.  So Tom Tatoes are probably not a sign of the Apocalypse. If our world is destroyed, it will probably be for better reasons.

Recently, grafted vegetables have come to the market for gardeners.  (Apparently, this method has been used commercially for some time- according to this article, 95% of the watermelons in Turkey are grafted onto pumpkin rootstock.)  The most common examples in home gardening are grafted tomatoes.  Heirloom tomatoes taste very good, but they tend to have weak and delicate root systems, and so they often die early or bear few marketable fruits.  Scions of heirloom tomatoes are grafted on to commercial tomato rootstock, which is vigorous and disease-resistant.  This is 100% muttar.  However, Thompson and Morgan has recently begun selling a graft of a tomato and a potato, resulting in a plant which produces both crops.  This is a fine and efficient use of one's garden, and it looks like it would be a lot of fun, but this is definitely a prohibited graft, and it is most probably assur to plant them.  The fruit they produce is muttar, but planting and maintaining the grafted plant is a problem.

The problem is the issur of Kilei Zera'im, kilayim of plants.  The Torah prohibits the grafting of dissimilar trees and vegetables.  While some prohibitions of Kilayim- intermixing- apply only in Eretz Yisrael, the grafting prohibition applies even outside of Eretz Yisrael.  This might be derabanan, it might be muttar when done by the hand of a gentile, there are plenty of "might"s.  But I believe that the practical halacha is that it is assur to plant them.

If you're interested in the methodology, see here and here.

(The cite for the Chazon Ish regarding various kinds of Citrus fruits is Kilayim 3:7.  The Chazon Ish there expresses uncertainty as to whether various citruses are considered dissimilar for purposes of Kilayim  There is, however, no doubt in the world that tomatoes and potatoes are kilayim.  While both are members of the family Solanum, that is irrelevant to the halachic determination of Kilayim.  The connection is no more significant than the fact that apples and roses are members of Rosaceae.)

Sources, and I apologize for the abysmally boring names:

An article about the Tom Tato

New Zealand's Potato Tom

A discussion of the issur of grafting dissimilar plants

The author of the cited discussion, in the last paragraph, leans towards being mattir when done by a gentile.  I disagree.


Tal Benschar said...

Of course, grafting is only forbidden across different species. There is nothing wrong with grafting different varieties of the same species.

Thus "Most common are heirloom tomato scions, which tend to have weak and delicate root systems, grafted on to commercial tomato rootstock" would be muttar.

The question, of course, is what is the same "min" acc. to halakha, which is not always the same as "species" in biology. Someone once told me (I never confirmed) that the Chazon Ish held that all citrus fruits are one min for the purpose of kilayim (though NOT for esrogim).

Barzilai/Eliezer Eisenberg said...

I corrected the language to make the meaning more clear.

I also put in the cite to the Chazon Ish. What he says is that he's not sure about Kilayim for various types of citrus, but that the specie-definition for Esrogim is more distinct and particular than the specie-definition for kilayim.