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|Dates on date palm|
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|Dates on date palm|
Phoenix dactylifera (date palm) is a palm in the genus Phoenix, cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. Although its place of origin is unknown because of long cultivation, it probably originated from lands around Iraq. It grows 70–75 feet in height, growing singly or forming a clump with several stems from a single root system. The leaves are 4–6 m long, with spines on the petiole, and pinnate, with about 150 leaflets; the leaflets are 30 cm long and 2 cm wide. The full span of the crown ranges from 6 to 10 m. Dates contain 20–70 calories each, depending on size and species.
Dates have been a staple food of the Middle East and the Indus Valley for thousands of years. They are believed to have originated around Iraq, and have been cultivated since ancient times from Mesopotamia to prehistoric Egypt, possibly as early as 4000 BCE. The Ancient Egyptians used the fruits to make date wine, and ate them at harvest. There is archaeological evidence of date cultivation in eastern Arabia in 6000 BCE. (Alvarez-Mon 2006).
There is also archeological evidence of date cultivation in Mehrgarh around 7000 BCE, a Neolithic civilization in western Pakistan. Evidence of cultivation is continually found throughout later civilizations in the Indus Valley, including the Harappan period 2600 to 1900 BCE. (Kenoyer 2005).
In later times, traders spread dates around South West Asia, northern Africa, and Spain and Italy. Dates were introduced into Mexico and California by the Spaniards in 1765, around Mission San Ignacio.
A date palm cultivar, known as Judean date palm, is renowned for its long-lived orthodox seed, which successfully sprouted after accidental storage for 2000 years. This particular seed was reputed to be the oldest viable seed until the sprouting of silene stenophylla seeds more than 30,000 years old, but the upper survival time limit of properly stored seeds remains unknown.
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 long, and 2–3 cm 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 long and 6–8 mm 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. 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 to keep him attached to the trunk while climbing. Less often the pollen may be blown onto the female flowers by a wind machine.
Dates ripen in four stages, which are known throughout the world by their Arabic names kimri (unripe), khlal (full-size, crunchy), rutab (ripe, soft), tamar (ripe, sun-dried).
Dates are an important traditional crop in Iraq, Arabia, and north Africa west to Morocco and are mentioned more than 50 times in the Bible. 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 to 10 years. Mature date palms can produce 80–120 kilograms (176–264 lb) 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:
The Gaza Strip, especially Deir al-Balah, "Village of Dates", is known for its exceptionally sweet red dates. There are more than 100 known cultivars in Iraq.[clarification needed] It should be noted, however, that a cultivar can have several names depending on the locality.
|Top Twenty Dates Producers — 2009|
(1000 metric tonnes)
|United Arab Emirates||900.00|
|World Total||(more than) 7462.51|
UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
|Deglet Noor dates|
|Nutritional value per serving|
|Serving size||100 grams|
|Energy||1,178 kJ (282 kcal)|
|- Sugars||63.35 g|
|- Dietary fiber||8 g|
|Vitamin A||10 IU|
|- beta-carotene||6 μg (0%)|
|- lutein and zeaxanthin||75 μg|
|Thiamine (vit. B1)||0.052 mg (5%)|
|Riboflavin (vit. B2)||0.066 mg (6%)|
|Niacin (vit. B3)||1.274 mg (8%)|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||0.589 mg (12%)|
|Vitamin B6||0.165 mg (13%)|
|Folate (vit. B9)||19 μg (5%)|
|Vitamin C||0.4 mg (0%)|
|Vitamin E||0.05 mg (0%)|
|Vitamin K||2.7 μg (3%)|
|Calcium||39 mg (4%)|
|Iron||1.02 mg (8%)|
|Magnesium||43 mg (12%)|
|Manganese||0.262 mg (12%)|
|Phosphorus||62 mg (9%)|
|Potassium||656 mg (14%)|
|Sodium||2 mg (0%)|
|Zinc||0.29 mg (3%)|
|Percentages are relative to|
US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Dry or soft dates are eaten out-of-hand, or may be pitted and stuffed with fillings such as almonds, walnuts, 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.
Dates can also be dehydrated, ground and mixed with grain to form a nutritious stockfeed. Dried dates are fed to camels, horses and dogs in the Sahara. In northern Nigeria, dates and peppers added to the native beer are believed to make it less intoxicating.
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. The flower buds are used in salad or ground with dried fish to make a condiment for bread.
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 India and Pakistan, North Africa, Ghana, and Côte d'Ivoire, 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.
It is also used to make Jallab.
Represents the provincial tree of Balochistan (Pakistan) (unofficial).
In large parts of Northern India the local species of wild date palm, Phoenix sylvestris, is tapped for palm wine, while in Pakistan and other regional 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 into palm syrup, palm sugar and jaggery.
Date seeds are soaked and ground up for animal feed. Their oil is suitable for use in soap and cosmetics. 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.
Stripped fruit clusters are used as brooms. In Pakistan, a viscous, thick syrup made from the ripe fruits is used as a coating for leather bags and pipes to prevent leaking.
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.
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.
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.
When Muslims break fast in the evening meal of Ramadan, it is traditional to eat a date first.
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.
Several types of dates can be found in Arabia, some of them are listed here.
Touzerzayet from Tunisia
Date palm with fruits at the Abdul Aziz Date Farm in Medina.
Ripe and dry dates fruit bunches at the Khurram Abdullah Bajwa Date Farm in Medina.
Dates growing in Yuma, Arizona
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