“Lindcove Ranch practices intensive Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in an effort to minimize use of pesticides. We are in full compliance with the regulations of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), the most consumer protective statutes and regulations imposed anywhere on the planet. As such, we can warrant and guarantee that if esrogim obtained from Lindcove Ranch are to be eaten or processed into products such as marmalades or candy, they can used with confidence that they completely safe and in full compliance with civil law and regulations of any jurisdiction. This is in addition to the halachic requirements that are supervised and certified by Rabbi A. Teichman.
Other than meeting certain shape and minimum size requirements, lulavim are not generally graded by length or girth.
The lulav is the unopened frond or “palm spear” that grows from the top of the palm tree. All palm trees (and also grasses) have at least one lulav. Each lulav leaf has two parts which will eventually open up and fan out to form the palm branch that can be used to provide a cooling breeze. As the tree grows, the lulavim open out and splay outwards, making room for fresh lulavim that are at the top of the tree as it grows upwards.
What is important is the middle leaf – called the “teyomes”. Ideally this should not be split, but as long as the middle leaf is not split more than about 3″ it is perfectly kosher, even more than that they can be used in some cases. A middle leaf that is split less than 3″ can be glued together (e.g. with Elmer’s glue) to stop it splitting further, and it is perfectly kosher.
We mostly grade lulavim based on how closed or open the middle leaf is. Some lulavim are more slender than others. When they grow they can be six feet or longer. For practical purposes we need to be able to ship them both in bulk and also to individual customers.
We receive lulavim which are between about 36-42″ long. Sometimes we need to trim them from the bottom to be able to fit them into our shipping boxes. This will result in the outer most leaves falling away, but this is of no halachic relevance, since we are concerned with the middle leaf. The result of this is that you may receive a slender lulav, but hopefully one whose middle leaf is more closed.
Other than the above physical requirements a lulav must come from a palm tree that produces edible dates. There are many varieties of dates and lulavim from the “Deglet Noor” variety often have middle leaves that split easily. The Medjool date palm produces excellent lulavim, and those are the ones we supply most of the time. The “Deri” (Dayri) date palm produces spectacular lulavim whose middle leaves are closed and stay closed. We do supply these also, but they are expensive.
For a more comprehensive discussion of the kashrus of a lulav (as well as the other species) I recommend three books:
1. What makes a kosher esrog?
Summary of Halachos of the Four Minim by Rabbi Shimon Eider (Feldheim)
2. What if the pitam is missing?
It is a common misconception that the esrog must have a pitam. All fruit start off with a pitam. It is what remains of the female part of the flower. Once the flower has been fertilized in almost all fruit, the pitam withers, dies, falls off, usually leaving a brown scar. In many esrogim, the pitam does not wither but remains. If the pitam withered naturally, then the esrog is perfectly kosher, according to almost all opinions. If however it was removed because of damage just before, or after picking then according to everyone the esrog is pasul (invalid). It is possible to distinguish between the two circumstances.
Having a pitam is considered by many a hiddur (beautification), or a necessity borne from a tradition. Many people prefer that the esrog does not have a pitam to avoid the problem of it being damaged. Most of our Orthodox customers prefer to have an esrog without a pitam. We prefer to ship pitamless esrogim to avoid the chance of a broken pitam arriving just before yom tov and having little ability to replace it in time.
Because there is a demand for esrogim with pitams, commercial farms actually spray the fruit when it is just forming with a special plant hormone that results in the pitam staying on the esrog.
3. How are esrogim graded – size, color, aroma?
4. Why is a blemish-free esrog important?
Is the brown covering on a lulav normal? Is there something wrong with my lulav?
What customers are describing is a paper thin, brown, flaky covering that is most often seen on the back (non-smooth) side of the lulav and sometimes covers the entire tip. On some lulavim you can see this brown color in between the leaflets on the “smooth” side of the lulav.
This is called “moch”and is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about Think of it as the “baby hair” of the lulav. It is a sign that the lulav is pretty fresh. For some people, the moch is highly desirable.
Do watch out however for signs of mold. These are black patches that may develop between the leaves, especially if the lulav is stored in a place that is too warm and moist. If you do see a few small patches, you can remove it with a cloth dipped in dilute bleach. Keep an eye on it to make sure it does not spread.