Banana and Papaya: Which Blessing?

The Tosefta (Kelaim 3:13) defines a tree, for the purposes of reciting “Bore PeriHaEtz”, as a plant whose fruit come off of branches which emerge from the trunk. Even after the fruit are picked, the branches remain and give new fruits in the subsequent seasons. Fruits and vegetables whose blessing is “Bore PeriHaAdama”, however, grow off of stalks that originate directly in the trunk and are replaced year to year. The Bet Yosef (Orah Haim § 203) defines a tree as a plant which produces fruit annually, whereas a plants requiring “Bore PeriHaAdama” are those whose roots do not remain and need to be planted every year. With regards to bananas, the banana “tree” has stalks which emerge from the roots and are replaced annually, although the roots remain from year to year.  Despite its ambiguous status, the Vilna Gaon writes that Shulhan Aruch (Orah Haim 203:3) follows the Tosefta’s definition and rules that the blessing for a banana is “Bore Peri HaAdama”.

The Moroccan Poskim discuss this ambiguity and whether the blessing of “HaAdama” is recited because in cases of doubt, “HaAdama” fulfils the obligation of fruit that are really “HaEtz”, or whether the banana plant really is considered “HaAdama”. Rabbi Yosef Messas (Shu”t Mayim Haim, § 56) offers a novel analysis and suggests that the blessing over a banana should actually be “Shehakol”. He quotes the Or HaHaim Hakadosh, Rabbi Haim Ben Attar (Sefer Rishon LeZion), who writes that whenever there is doubt as to the blessingstatus of a fruit, the generic blessing of “Shehakol” is to be recited. Even though “HaAdama” normally exempts fruit which are “HaEtz” (since, ultimately, all fruit originate from the ground), the Or HaHaim follows the Rambam, who rejects this exemption, and therefore says that “Shehakol” is preferable. Rabbi Shalom Messas (Shemesh Umagen, vol. II, § 11) defends the logic of his uncle, Rabbi Yosef, but writes that the Moroccan custom is to follow the Shulhan Aruch’s ruling and recite “Bore Peri HaAdama” over bananas.

Papaya’s grow in a similar fashion to bananas and are subject to the same ambiguity as bananas, but the Halacha is that their blessing is also “HaAdama”. Nevertheless, one difference is that papaya plants give fruit within three yearsof planting. Jewish law dictates that fruit from true trees cannot be consumedwithin the first three years of a tree’s life and such fruit are called “Orlah”. Since the custom is to be strict with regards to Orlah in Israel, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv explains that, despite its questionable status as a tree, for the purposes of Orlah one should be strict and refrain from eating papayas grown in Israel within the first three years. Nevertheless, Rabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul (Or LeZion, vol. II, pg. 306) says that since the custom is to bless “HaAdama”, we consider the fruit grow from a ground plant and not a tree. As such, he rules that one would be able to eat papayas grown in Israel, even within three years.

Additionally, it should be noted that all berries, with the exception of strawberries, are considered to be “HaEtz”. Strawberries grow from stalks from the ground and their blessing is thus “HaAdama”.

Summary:  The blessing over bananas and papayas is “Bore PeriHaAdama”. Papayas from a plant that is under three years old are notconsidered Orlah in Israel and may be consumed. The blessing over allberries is “Bore Peri HaEtz”, except for strawberrieswhose blessing is “HaAdama”.