FACTS ABOUT THE DATE PALM TREE
All palms, including the date palm, belong to a group of plants that are
known as monocotyledons.These plants include grasses, lilies, and orchids.The most common feature about these
plants is that they all start with a single leaf when they germinate from a seed.During the first year a
date palm tree looks more like grass than a date palm.There are many different varieties of date palms. The Mallortiea does
not exceed 2 feet and then there is the Ceroxylon of Colombia which can measure two hundred feet.Thickness of the palm tree can vary from a few inches to a several feet.There palms that grow like vines for several hundred feet and others grow like bushes.Palms can grow in many different habitats.From seashores, to the mountains, to the deserts.Some bear tiny fruit the size of a berry and some 40 pound double
coconuts.Even though we more commonly referred to palms as palm trees they are not trees and the characteristics of palms are very different trees.
vast majority of palms do not have branches, but there are some palms
that do have branches, such as the palm commonly known as the gingerbread
tree, and called the African doum palm which does produce branches.The gingerbread tree name came about
because the pulp of the fruit resembles the gingerbread.
Palm trunks can be smooth, rough, and pitted.When new leaves grow the old die and sometimes fall off.In some palms the leaves do not fall and form a protective exterior.Unlike a tree the trunk of the palm has no annual growth
rings.The palm leaves are of two different types some resemble a fan and some resemble a feather, called
palmate and pinnate. The longest palm leaves measure about 65 feet and the broadest measure about sixteen feet. The flowers are always very small.Almost every single palm fruit regardless of size contains just one seed.There are about 4,000 different species
of palms and about 1,200 grow in the Western Hemisphere.There are only 14 species of palms that are native to the United States.
The palmettos are the most common and grow in South Carolina and Florida.The heart of the cabbage palmetto has
an edible bud which is often sold as the heart of palm. Some of the palmetto fibers are used to make brushes and whisk brooms which are resistant to hot water and caustic materials.
In the wild the date palm tree pollinates naturally, but production is low. Artificial pollination increases production substantially. The date palm tree grows from seed, but there is an even distribution of males and females.For farming purposes the distribution ratios are not efficient as it takes one male to pollinate about fifty females. The date palm tree also
produces off shoots which can be cut and planted which produce fruit about five years earlier than from seed.This also allows for the control of the male to female ratio.The off shoots can be all male or female depending on the needs.Offshoots are only produced under certain conditions.There is a strong correlation between the amount of fruit produced and the number of shoots produced.When there is an increase in date palm shoots there is a decrease in fruit and the same is true in reverse if there is an increase in fruit there is a decrease date palm shoots.If at least one offshoot is left on the tree it continues to produce offshoots, but if all the offshoots are removed the date tree will not produce anymore.The quantity and quality of the date palm fruit is also affected by the number of fruit clusters.Too many clusters will produce poor quality fruit so the date clusters need to be removed.
date fruit needs approximately six months to ripen.In ancient civilizations in the middle
east there were different stages of ripening.These four stages of date ripening were
named kimri, khalal, rutab, and tamar.The kimri stage is where the dates
are green, at the khalal stage the dates have grown to their maximum size
and turn yellowish or reddish depending on the specific variety of
date.The date begins to soften
and loses the bright color at the rutab stage.The fruit is ripe at the tamar stage.
Dates are classified as soft, semidry, and dry.The dry dates are the bread dates commonly used in the middle east for everyday consumption.The sweeter dates are used as a dessert in the Middle East as well as the United States.Among the sweeter dates is the Medjool Date which is considered the king of dates and which was once reserved for royalty.
author by the name of Henry Simon in North African Diary of 1913
described the handling of Rhars dates in arabic countries including
Tunisian and Algerian Oases were the growers trampled the soft dates with
their unclean bare feet on animal skins.Another type of date which was dry called the Meshi Degla was
transported by camel in pairs.The
sacks were left on the ground which as often soiled with animal manure
from donkeys and camels and then reused again.The Deglet Noor was treated
substantially different, because it was primarily an export product.It was packed in wooden crates and
shipped to other countries.
are many other varieties of dates grown throughout the Middle East and North Africa, but most are not cultivated for export or in large
quantities.In Algeria and Tunisia the three main varieties are the Rhars (vigorous grower), the dry Meshi Degla(purgative
seedling) which is a basically a bread date; and the semidry Deglett Noor (date of light).In the United States the Deglet Noor is one of
the dates commonly cultivated.
One of the rarest and most prized varieties is the
Menakher (Nose Date) which as never sold for export and the few palms
that existed where jealously guarded by their growers.
Morocco, Egypt, Iraq and the other Persian Gulf Countries have their own distinct
varieties.Many of those varieties are never exported, because they are soft dates.Among them is Hayany of Egypt; the
Khalas(quintessence) of Arabia; and the Barhee, Halawy(the sweet), andKhadrawy(the verdant) of Iraq and Syria. A few of these dates are
also grown in California in small quantities.
The Medjool of Morocco is know for its unusually large size and it is renowned for its
flavor. The Medjool date is a large and dark and can grow to about three inches and even though it is
classified as a soft date it is much firmer and more resilient than other soft dates and handles better. The Medjool date made its way
to the United States through the United States Department of Agriculture. There was a disease in Morocco that was spreading quickly
among the Medjool date palm trees and a Moroccan official gave some shoots to a representative from the USDA which in turn were taken
and planted in California.The Medjool is now thriving in California as one of the top varieties of dates.
Date palm trees can yield from about 100 to 300 pounds of dates per tree.One of the most important factors
is the amount of water they receive.The date palm can absorb a lot of water.Date palms can also resist very cold weather and have known to
survive in subfreezing temperatures.The date palms are usually insect and parasite free, but can be attacked from time to time by fungi
and scale insects.The cultivation of dates was very labor intensive and even to date continues to be labor intensive and dangerous.Before
planting enormous holes were dug measuring eight feet deep and were eight feet square.Often the holes were dug on hard materials including
limestone. The holes were then filled with manure and top soil for about five feet and the remainder was slowly filled around the newly
planted date palm tree. The date palm was below ground level, but this allowed for better watering and it provides protection from the hot
winds and the sun.Arabs traditionally harvested by cutting the entire cluster, but many American farmers hand picked each individual date
as the fruit ripens.Prior to harvesting in many American farms the dates are first prepared by cutting down the amount of fruit on each
cluster to allow the air to circulate and permit more uniform ripening of the date. This means that the date will necessarily cost more
cultivate and harvest in American farms and will necessarily result in a higher price.Generally speaking imported dates are not as good as
American grown dates, because of the more labor intensive cultivating techniques used on American farms, but this is not always the case.
The date palm tree can grow in many different areas, but for the date palm to produce quality fruit it is
necessary that the climate be one of very little rain and the climate also needs to be hot.At the same time the date palm requires
large amounts of water. In many American farms the fruit from the date palm tree is protected against possible rain, birds and insects
by placing a Para fined paper bag around the date cluster. This done because of the ease with which rain can ruin dates.There is an
opening around the wrapping to permit air to circulate inside the wrapping to allow the dates to ripen properly. In California
date farms a bell shaped paper cloak is placed around the fruit. Almost California date farms utilize this technique to protect the
date. California grown dates can be seen with this seemingly peculiar wrapping throughout the Coachella Valley. The Medjool Date as well
as other varieties are protected using this same technique throughout the Coachella Valley. Upon reaching the final stage and fully
ripening the date is no longer as susceptible to rain and humidity.A few date varieties are much more vulnerable to moisture and usually
not economical to cultivate and therefore not cultivated on a commercial scale or at all. In the United States the Rhars date is not grown
commercially in the United States because of its susceptibility to damage from moisture or rain.Soft dates are much more difficult to
handle and cultivate and require extensive care and handling.
Dates can be grown from offshoots and seeds, but are almost always grown from
offshoots.The primary reason is that there is a shorten time period to harvest if the date is grown from
an off shoot and the date palm from seed rarely has the same qualities as the parent plant. The seed can in
fact be used successfully for creating new varieties of dates, but just as it can create a superior variety it can also create and
The date palm tree can grow up to about 100 feet and can live for 200 years.The date palm trunk is has a
spiral pattern that is formed with the base of earlier formed leaves. The leaves of a date palm are about 12 to 20 feet and have a grayish
to bluish green color. The end of the leaf fronds are needle sharp. The flowers on date palm trees are borne in bunches at the top of the
tree. The female date palm trees produce fruit, and one male tree can produce enough pollen to pollinate about 50 female trees. The fruit
of the date palm tree has one seed, and the fruit can vary in size, shape, color and quality of flesh. Dates are green in color, maturing
to yellow, then into reddish-brown when fully ripe, but this is not true for all varieties. A single large bunch may contain more than a
thousand dates, and can weigh about 20 pounds. Each tree can produce over 100 pounds of dates. Date palm trees can begin to bear fruit at
3 to 5 years, and are fully mature at about 10-12 years. Date palm trees can be propagated by seed, but the probability of obtaining a
female is 50%t and excessive male plants are undesirable since they can only be used to pollinate.New date palm trees from seed also less
desirable because it takes significantly longer to produce fruit. Most new date palm trees are propagated by the offshoots taken from the
mature female. The date palm tree requires high temperatures and low air humidity for fruit to set and ripen the optimum temperature for
pollen germination is about 95 degrees Fahrenheit.Date palm trees require a constant water supply.Desert conditions are ideal, but a lot
of water is also required.
Wild date trees are morphologically and ecologically similar to domesticated dates but have smaller,
inedible fruits. There have been many escapes from cultivation which mixed with wild date trees. These hybrids between wild and
domesticated dates make it difficult to distinguish the domesticated populations from the wild. There may date trees around the Iran
Iraq border and in Jordan which are believed to be remnants of wild populations present in areas of Jordan.
Date palm trees start producing fruit after about 4-5 years and reach full
production after about 10-12 years.Date-producing countries include Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Morocco, Oman,
Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the UAE, and Yemen.There are an estimated 600 different varieties of dates that are regularly
cultivated. The Saudi Arabia, Madinah's date market consists of about 150 varieties of dates, of which the most popular is called Anbara,
which is also the most expensive date. Some dates are self curing and cure on the tree. Soft dates require harvesting at an appropriate
time and sun drying to increase sugar content to prevent spoilage.
The date palm tree is also used extensively as an ornamental tree.The date palm can tolerate high
salinity of up to 22,000 parts per million.It is believed that the dates were introduced into Spain by the Moors and into the Americas
by the Spanish. Modern date production in U.S. started with clones obtained directly by USDA in East and North Africa and then
planted in Coachella Valley California.