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Bitter apple plant

 

 

Regarding gourd oil, the gourds mentioned in the Bible and the Mishnah have been identified with the plant known as the bitter apple (seen above), the Citrullus colocynthis L. of the gourd family. This plant is similar to a watermelon and is found along the coastal plain and the other sandy regions of Israel. The plant has finger-like leaves that are somewhat similar to grape leaves and round fruits that are approximately 10 cm in diameter with a thick rind. The fruit is spongy, filled with seeds, and has a bitter taste.  It is possible to extract oil from the seeds, generally as much as 15 percent of the weight of the seeds. The oil can be used for food or light. 
 
 
(This image was taken from the English edition of the Koren Talmud Bavli (Steinsaltz Talmud), Tractate Shabbat, daf 26, page 122. To order your copy of the Steinsaltz Talmudclick here, contact your local Jewish bookstore, or e-mail Koren Books at Bezalel@korenpub.com.)