Phoenix dactylifera, commonly known as date or date palm, is a flowering plant species in the palm family, Arecaceae, cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. Although its place of origin is unknown because of long cultivation, it probably originated from lands around Iraq. The species is widely cultivated and is naturalized in many tropical and subtropical regions worldwide.
Date trees typically reach about 21–23 metres (69–75 ft) in height, growing singly or forming a clump with several stems from a single root system. The leaves are 4–6 metres (13–20 ft) long, with spines on the petiole, and pinnate, with about 150 leaflets. The leaflets are 30 cm (12 in) long and 2 cm (0.79 in) wide. The full span of the crown ranges from 6–10 m (20–33 ft).
Fossil records show that the date palm has existed for at least 50 million years.
Dates have been a staple food of the Middle East and the Indus Valley for thousands of years. There is archaeological evidence of date cultivation in eastern Arabia between 5530 and 5320 calBC. They are believed to have originated around what is now Iraq, and have been cultivated since ancient times from Mesopotamia to prehistoric Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians used the fruits to make date wine, and ate them at harvest.
There is also archeological evidence of date cultivation in Mehrgarh around 7000 BCE, a Neolithic civilization in what is now western Pakistan. Evidence of cultivation is continually found throughout later civilizations in the Indus Valley, including the Harappan period 2600 to 1900 BCE.
In Ancient Rome the palm fronds used in triumphal processions to symbolize victory were most likely those of Phoenix dactylifera. The date palm was a popular garden plant in Roman peristyle gardens, though it would not bear fruit in the more temperate climate of Italy. It is recognizable in frescoes from Pompeii and elsewhere in Italy, including a garden scene from the House of the Wedding of Alexander.
Phoenix dactylifera held great significance in early Judaism and subsequently in Christianity, in part because the tree was heavily cultivated as a food source in ancient Palestine. In the Bible palm trees are referenced as symbols of prosperity and triumph. Palm branches occurred as iconography in sculpture ornamenting the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, on Jewish coins, and in the sculpture of synagogues. They are also used as ornamentation in the Feast of the Tabernacles.
A date palm cultivar, probably what used to be called Judean date palm, is renowned for its long-lived orthodox seed, which successfully sprouted after accidental storage for 2000 years. The upper survival time limit of properly stored seeds remains unknown.
•Date palms require well-drained deep sandy loam soils with pH 8-11. The soil should have the ability to hold the moisture. The soil should also be free from calcium carbonate.
The fruit is known as a date. The fruit's English name (through Old French), as well as the Latin species name dactylifera, both come from the Greek word for "finger", dáktulos, because of the fruit's elongated shape. Dates are oval-cylindrical, 3–7 cm (1.2–2.8 in) long, and 2–3 cm (0.79–1.18 in) diameter, and when ripe, range from bright red to bright yellow in colour, depending on variety. Dates contain a single stone about 2–2.5 cm (0.8–1.0 in) long and 6–8 mm (0.2–0.3 in) thick. Three main cultivar groups of date exist: soft (e.g. 'Barhee', 'Halawy', 'Khadrawy', 'Medjool'), semi-dry (e.g. 'Dayri', 'Deglet Noor', 'Zahdi'), and dry (e.g. 'Thoory'). The type of fruit depends on the glucose, fructose, and sucrose content.
The date palm is dioecious, having separate male and female plants. They can be easily grown from seed, but only 50% of seedlings will be female and hence fruit bearing, and dates from seedling plants are often smaller and of poorer quality. Most commercial plantations thus use cuttings of heavily cropping cultivars. Plants grown from cuttings will fruit 2–3 years earlier than seedling plants.
Dates are naturally wind pollinated, but in both traditional oasis horticulture and in the modern commercial orchards they are entirely pollinated manually. Natural pollination occurs with about an equal number of male and female plants. However, with assistance, one male can pollinate up to 100 females. Since the males are of value only as pollinators, this allows the growers to use their resources for many more fruit-producing female plants. Some growers do not even maintain any male plants, as male flowers become available at local markets at pollination time. Manual pollination is done by skilled labourers on ladders, or by use of a wind machine. In some areas such as Iraq the pollinator climbs the tree using a special climbing tool that wraps around the tree trunk and the climber's back (called تبلية in Arabic) to keep him attached to the trunk while climbing.
Parthenocarpic cultivars are available but the seedless fruit is smaller and of lower quality.
Dates ripen in four stages, which are known throughout the world by their Arabic names kimri (unripe), khlal (full-size, crunchy), rutab (ripe, soft), tamr (ripe, sun-dried).
Dates are an important traditional crop in Iraq, Arabia, and north Africa west to Morocco. Dates are also mentioned more than 50 times in the Bible and 20 times in the Qur'an. In Islamic culture, dates and yogurt or milk are traditionally the first foods consumed for Iftar after the sun has set during Ramadan. Dates (especially Medjool and Deglet Noor) are also cultivated in America in southern California, Arizona and southern Florida in the United States and in Sonora and Baja California in Mexico.
Date palms can take 4 to 8 years after planting before they will bear fruit, and produce viable yields for commercial harvest between 7 and 10 years. Mature date palms can produce 150–300 lb (70–140 kg) of dates per harvest season, although they do not all ripen at the same time so several harvests are required. In order to get fruit of marketable quality, the bunches of dates must be thinned and bagged or covered before ripening so that the remaining fruits grow larger and are protected from weather and pests such as birds.
A large number of date cultivars are grown. The most important are:
There are more than 100 known cultivars in Iraq. It should be noted, however, that a cultivar can have several names depending on the locality.
|Top ten date producers – 2014
(1000 metric tonnes, 1000 short tons)
|United Arab Emirates||533||588|
UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
Dry or soft dates are eaten out-of-hand, or may be pitted and stuffed with fillings such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, candied orange and lemon peel, tahini, marzipan or cream cheese. Pitted dates are also referred to as stoned dates. Partially dried pitted dates may be glazed with glucose syrup for use as a snack food. Dates can also be chopped and used in a range of sweet and savory dishes, from tajines (tagines) in Morocco to puddings, ka'ak (types of Arab cookies) and other dessert items. Date nut bread, a type of cake, is very popular in the United States, especially around holidays. Dates are also processed into cubes, paste called "'ajwa", spread, date syrup or "honey" called "dibs" or "rub" in Libya, powder (date sugar), vinegar or alcohol. Vinegar made from dates is a traditional product of the Middle East. Recent innovations include chocolate-covered dates and products such as sparkling date juice, used in some Islamic countries as a non-alcoholic version of champagne, for special occasions and religious times such as Ramadan. When Muslims break fast in the evening meal of Ramadan, it is traditional to eat a date first.
Dates can also be dehydrated, ground and mixed with grain to form a nutritious stockfeed.
In Israel date syrup, termed "silan", is used while cooking chicken and also for sweet and desserts, and as a honey substitute.
It is also used to make Jallab.
Dates provide a wide range of essential nutrients, and are a very good source of dietary potassium. The sugar content of ripe dates is about 80%; the remainder consists of protein, fiber, and trace elements including boron, cobalt, copper, fluorine, magnesium, manganese, selenium, and zinc. The glycemic index for three different varieties of dates are 35.5 (khalas), 49.7 (barhi), and 30.5 (bo ma'an).
In Pakistan, a viscous, thick syrup made from the ripe fruits is used as a coating for leather bags and pipes to prevent leaking.
Where craft traditions still thrive, such as in Oman, the palm tree is the most versatile of all indigenous plants, and virtually every part of the tree is utilized to make functional items ranging from rope and baskets to beehives, fishing boats, and traditional dwellings.
Date seeds are soaked and ground up for animal feed. Their oil is suitable for use in soap and cosmetics. Date palm seeds contain 0.56–5.4% lauric acid. They can also be processed chemically as a source of oxalic acid. The seeds are also burned to make charcoal for silversmiths, and can be strung in necklaces. Date seeds are also ground and used in the manner of coffee beans, or as an additive to coffee. Experimental studies have shown that feeding mice with the aqueous extract of date pits exhibit anti-genotoxic and reduce DNA damage induced by N-Nitroso-N-methylurea.
Stripped fruit clusters are used as brooms. Recently the floral stalks have been found to be of ornamental value in households.
In large parts of Northern India the local species of wild date palm, Phoenix sylvestris, is tapped for palm wine, while in Bangladesh, Pakistan and other countries in the region it is now mostly tapped for jaggery and palm syrup production. Wild date palms are also tapped in large parts of Africa for palm wine. The process of palm tapping involves the cutting of the unopened flower stalk and then fastening a bottle gourd, clay or plastic vessel on to it. The palm sap then collects in the vessel and is harvested in the early morning hours. If a few drops of lime juice are added to the palm sap, fermentation can be stopped and the sap can then be boiled to form palm syrup, palm sugar, jaggery and numerous other edible products derived from the syrup. In Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, North Africa, Ghana, and Ivory Coast, date palms are tapped for the sweet sap, which is converted into palm sugar (known as jaggery or gur), molasses or alcoholic beverages. In North Africa the sap obtained from tapping palm trees is known as lāgbī. If left for a sufficient period of time (typically hours, depending on the temperature) lāgbī easily becomes an alcoholic drink. Special skill is required when tapping the palm tree so that it does not die.
Date palm leaves are used for Palm Sunday in the Christian religion. In North Africa, they are commonly used for making huts. Mature leaves are also made into mats, screens, baskets and fans. Processed leaves can be used for insulating board. Dried leaf petioles are a source of cellulose pulp, used for walking sticks, brooms, fishing floats and fuel. Leaf sheaths are prized for their scent, and fibre from them is also used for rope, coarse cloth, and large hats. The leaves are also used as a lulav in the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
Young date leaves are cooked and eaten as a vegetable, as is the terminal bud or heart, though its removal kills the palm. The finely ground seeds are mixed with flour to make bread in times of scarcity. The flowers of the date palm are also edible. Traditionally the female flowers are the most available for sale and weigh 300–400 grams (11–14 oz). The flower buds are used in salad or ground with dried fish to make a condiment for bread.
Date palm wood is used for posts and rafters for huts; it is lighter than coconut and not very durable. It is also used for construction such as bridges and aqueducts, and parts of dhows. Leftover wood is burnt for fuel.
The date palm represents the provincial tree of Balochistan (Pakistan) (unofficial).
Date Palms are susceptible to a disease called Bayoud disease, which is caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum. This disease, which kills many of the popular older cultivars like Deglet Noor, has led to a major decline in production where it is present, notably Morocco and western Algeria. However, new cultivars resistant to the disease are being developed. A major palm pest, the red palm beetle (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus) currently poses a significant threat to date production in parts of the Middle East as well as to iconic landscape specimens throughout the Mediterranean world.
In the 1920s, eleven healthy Madjool palms were transferred from Morocco to the United States where they were tended by members of the Chemehuevi tribe in a remote region of Nevada. Nine of these survived and in 1935, cultivars were transferred to the "U.S. Date Garden" in Indio, California. Eventually this stock was reintroduced to Africa and led to the U.S. production of dates in Yuma, Arizona and the Bard Valley in California.
Several types of dates can be found in Arabia, some of them are listed here.
|Khunaysey||خنيزي||Um Ruhaim||ام رحيم||Hilali||هلالي||Nabtat Sultan||نبتة سلطان|