Hydroponic Vegetables for Maror

Ask the Rov: What bracha is hydroponic lettuce and can it be used for maror at the seder?

By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah

Hydroponics is a method of growing crops without soil, by using water-based mineral nutrient solutions in an artificial environment. Potentially, with certain protocols in place in the controlled growing environment, such lettuce can be certified as insect-free by a reliable hechsher.

The Yerushalmi questions the bracha for bread made from wheat grown in a flowerpot that is not perforated to the ground, as it may not qualify for the bracha “hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz.” As the matter is left unresolved, some poskim ruled that the bracha over such bread would be mezonos, and the bracha for vegetables grown this way would be shehakol.1 However, the halachic consensus is that since such produce was grown in the normal fashion out of soil, and it isn’t recognizably different, the regular brachos of hamotzi and ha’adama should be recited.2

Hydroponic vegetables aren’t even grown in soil and aren’t “fruit of the ground” (pri ha’adama). Thus, some contemporary poskim hold their correct bracha would be shehakol.3 Others posit that we follow the species and since this vegetable is generally grown in soil and people view the hydroponic variety in the same manner, the bracha remains ha’adama.4 Due to the varying views, some write one should recite shehakol out of doubt.5 Though, if one recited ha’adama, he has fulfilled his obligation.6

With regards to using such lettuce for maror at the seder, contemporary poskim write that its taste and sharpness qualify to fulfill the obligation.7 One would not make a bracha of shehakol on the maror since the ha’adama recited previously on karpas covers it at least b’dieved, and according to some, even l’chatchila.8

Ideally, for maror, one should use lettuce grown in the normal manner. However, if one cannot obtain bug-free lettuce grown in soil, one may certainly use hydroponic lettuce.9

See Sources (open PDF)

From The Weekly Farbrengen by Merkaz Anash

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