Date Palm Data

Interesting Facts About Dates

  • Dates are highly nutritional and considered by many to be one of natures most perfect foods
  • Date palms cover 3% of the earths cultivated surface. Four million tons are grown annually.
  • The date palm is the national symbol for Israel and Saudi Arabia, representing vitality and growth.
  • A date pit almost 2000 years old was recently sprouted by Israeli researchers. An ancient variety thought to be extinct is back.
  • Bedouin tribes of the Middle East, who eat a high percentage of dates in their diet, have one of the lowest rates of cancer.
  • The date palm is a very salt tolerant tree and will grow well in alkaline soils where other plants will not. They are sometimes irrigated with ocean water.
  • Date palms are like giant solar collectors. They require at least 100 sunny days of 100 degrees for best fruit production. Over the 7 month growing season, which includes Summer, they store the intense energy of the desert in their fruit.
  • Survival into the next decade. In these uncertain times it's not a bad idea to have a little extra food around. The high calories and excellent nutritional value plus their ablity to keep well for long periods of time make them great for emergeny food rations.

Date Culture

Extreme Agriculture

Like extreme sports, work in the date palms is highly skilled, a test of strength and endurance, and a bit on the dangerous side. Some of the skills required to grow dates include: balancing and carrying a 62 ft. ladder fully extended and in upright position, dangling from chains in the top of tall palm trees while wielding a razor sharp hooked machette, scrambling around free style in the crown of the tree while pollinating or tying bunches, swinging a 12 pound sledge hammer to cut offshoots at the base, etc. This is all often done in temperatures of 100 to 120 degrees all the while dodging date thorns and the occasional desert rattle snake. The date palm worker or "palmero", is paid on a piece rate or per tree basis, so work is done at a brisk pace. A good palmero is one of the most highly paid field workers, and righfully so! Dates are a very labor intensive crop to grow. Each palm may require up to 7 trips to the top annually to perform the various cultural pratices which include: dethorn, pollen flower cutting, pollination, thinning, tie down, bagging, and harvest. In beween climbing trees there's irrigation, tractoring, fertilizing, offshoot cutting, planting, and frond pick-up. As you can see, there's never a dull moment

The Growth Stages of the Date

        

Dates take about 7 months from the time they first emerge from the spath or casing untill they are fully ripened.They like very hot, dry weather and lots of water on their roots.

   In the hababuk stage, dates are hand pollinated. In nature, one-half of the palms would be male, but in agriculture, mostly females are planted since only they bare fruit. One male is planted for 50 females. The pollen flowers are cut from the male tree and the pollen is extracted, then applied by hand to the female blooms to assure a good fruit set.

    The medjool variety is thinned in the kimri stage at about 9 to 12 weeks. 60% to 75% of the young fruit is taken off. This causes the remaining fruit to grow extra large.

    In later Kimri, the fruit stalk is tyed-down to a frond. This positions the bunch and keeps the strings of fruit from being tangled in the fronds.

    In late kimri or early Khalaal, the fruit bunches are bagged. This keeps the ripening dates protected from rain. birds and sun burn. This is done with a paper wrap or nylon mesh bag.

    Late in the khalaal stage a few varieties can be harvested and eaten in their hard yellow or red state, but most kinds are totally astringent, like an unripe persimmon. Some growers freeze khalaals to remove astringency. Barhi and Desert Gem are two kinds that are very good in their natural, unfrozen state. Khalaal dates are cut and packed on the string they grow on. Given the proper conditions they will continue to ripen into the rutab stage.

    In the rutab stage, soft date varieties can be very juicy. This is called "wet" in North America. They can be harvested like this, but are very delicate and need to be handled very carefully.

    If allowed to hang on the trees another two to three weeks they will go into their tamr state and are self-preserved. The tamr dates are still soft, but have a lower moisture content than rutab. Most dates are harvested in the tamr stage.

 

Date History

A stone relief of a date palm in an ancient synagogue 3-5thousand b.c.

A Sacred Tree- The date palm has played a crucial role in the history of human kind, and has been

 especially important in the Middle East and North Africa. It not only provided the main staple food for these desert cultures, but also shade,(almost as important). It provided materials for building, baskets and mats, medicines, "and as many other uses as there are days in the year". Because it was one of the things that sustained life, it was given spiritual significance, and is revered as a sacred tree to Muslims. To the Israels it is known as "the tree of life". Three out of the five major world religions use date palms in their religious rituals; Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. It is believed by many to be the date tree not the apple tree that was spoken of in the Garden of Eden. The exact origin of the date palm, (Phoenix Dactyifera), is unknown. It probably first grew in North Africa or possibly South West Asia. Date pits 50,000 years old were found in a cave in Northern Iraq by archaeologist. One of the first cultitivated crops was dates, starting as early as 8,000 years ago. In Egyptian hyogliphics the symbol for one month is a palm frond (a tree grows about 12 fronds a year), and the Egyptian symbol for a year is a full date palm. The Moors introduced the date palm to Spain in the 8th century A.D. The Spanish brought date seeds to Cuba in 1513, and in 1765 dates were successfully grown at the Mission at San Ignacio in Baja California where they still florish today. The first date palm offshoots of established varieties from the Middle East came to the U.S. around 1900, and were planted in Arizona and California.

Nutritional Info

  • Energy producing 
  • High fiber
  • Very alkaline
  • High in Iron
  • Potassium (more than bananas)
  • Calcium
  • B-complex
  • Thiamine
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Panothenic acid
  • Carbohydrates
  • Minerals
  • 24 calories per date
  • Sodium free
  • Fat free
  • Cholesterol free

About Sugar in Dates

  According to a recent publication by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations...

 

"In most varieties the sugar content of the date fruit is almost entirely of the inverted form (namely glucose or fructose}. Important for persons who can not tolerate sucrose. {see table}. The invert sugar in dates is immediately absorbed by the human body without being subject to the digestion that ordinary sugar goes through....Their energy is in the form of invert sugars, except for the Deglet Noor and Thoory varieties, in which about one-half of the sugar content is in the form of cane sugar or sucrose."

            

 

 

                    

Commonly Asked Questions about Dates

  • What is the best way to store dates? To keep dates in their optimum condition we recommend putting them in the frig sealed in air tight containers. "Wet" dates should not be removed from their fiber baskets because they are often very fragile, however, four baskets slide perfectly in a gallon ziplock baggie where they should stay good for 3 to 4 months. Dryer varieties keep even longer. For long term storage dates can be frozen, although enzymes and life energy may be diminished. If dates must be stored out of refrigeration for long periods of time, they should first be frozen for a period of 72 hours to eliminate any possibility of infestation. Dates are the least perishable of any fresh fruit and will remain good for many months when stored properly.
  • Are dates a dried fruit? There is normaly no post harvest drying process at our farm. Any drying that takes place happens as the dates hang on the tree. Some soft date varieties can be very juicy, these can be puchased in our wet pack. Other dry and semi dry varieties never have a very high moisture content and go directly to their naturally dryer state.
  • What about bugs? Because of our commitment to providing dates in the most natural state possible, we do not freeze, heat, fumigate or use pesticides of any kind to control insects. Bugs are not something you have to worry about too much, they are really quite harmless and seldom get past our sorting table, but there is a small chance you could see one on occasion. If by chance you do find one of these little guys, please place him or her outside where they will be more comfortable. Consider this proof positive of your box being a raw, sustainably grown product.