Egyption Palm Dates
The cultivation of date palms in Egypt goes back thousands of years. The date palm tree has great socioeconomic importance and nutritional value in Egypt. Ancient date pits have been found during archeological digs and palm trunks have been used to construct ancient temples. Dates were a popular and important source of food for the Middle Eastern people because they dried and stored well, were light, and were satisfying and delicious. Dates were also highly prized by royalty. The fruit was commonly traded and date palm tree orchards grew throughout the Middle East. Later trading spread the palm trees to Northeast Africa and Eastern Mediterranean regions.
The Moors introduced dates to Spain, who in turn introduced the trees to South America, Mexico and California in the 18th and 19th centuries during missions. Descendants of these trees still grow there today. However, most of the commercially produced dates in California actually came later directly from the Middle East. California is the major producer of dates for the United States.
Its traditional use as a primary source of food and by-products and its ecological benefits in oasis agriculture make it an important fruit tree and the best crop to be cultivated. Egypt is the most productive country of date palm fruit in the world. There is a high potential for increasing the production area of date palm to fulfill local consumption in the whole country and to produce date fruits for export purposes. Presently, the Egyptian Government and private sector are convinced of the potential of date production and are striving to establish commercial date plantations and promote viable date production.
Date Palm Trees
The date palm tree is considered the "Tree of Life" to the Middle Eastern people and is a holy symbol to the Muslim people. Palm trees are also mentioned throughout the Bible and Palm fronds from the tree are also a symbol of Palm Sunday when Jesus entered Jerusalem. The tree has many uses besides its dates. The wood is used for fuel and to build shelters. The fronds are woven into mats used to make floors and ceilings and for carrying utensils. Palm trees are frequently used as ornamental plants throughout the southwest of the United States.
Palm trees have skinny, long trunks with many huge leaves, called fronds, on top of the tree. Mature trees reach up to a hundred feet tall. The palms are dioecious, meaning male and female parts of the flower grow on separate trees up by the fronds. The pollen from the male flower needs to be mixed with the female flower for proper pollination. After pollination hundreds of dates develop in large clusters high in the trees.
Date palms grow best in regions with high temperatures, low humidity, and lots of water. This makes them somewhat expensive to grow commercially because they require extensive irrigation. Date palms are commercially grown in orchards called "oases." Growers generally keep a 30 female to 1 male ratio for the best date production. Flower buds form in the spring and open for a short time in the early summer. During this time the female flowers are hand-pollinated with the pollen from the male flowers.
Dates develop over four phases before they are ripe, which takes about 200 days. The phases are:
"Chimri" ("Kimri"): This is the first 17 weeks after pollination. The dates are green, hard, bitter, and are mostly moisture.
"Khalal": The next 6 weeks. Here the dates grow until they reach their full size. The dates are still hard but become sweeter and change color to yellow, orange, or red. Some dates may be harvested at this phase
"Rutab": The next 4 weeks. The dates turn a light brown color and slowly become soft and sweet. Most soft and semi-soft dates are harvested during this phase.
"Tamar": The last 2 weeks before final harvesting. The dates darken in color and become softer and sweeter. Dry varieties of dates are harvested now.
Date palm trees produce fruit every other year. A mature palm tree can grow up to 20 clusters of dates per pollination. Dates are harvested anywhere from late summer to early winter. Some dates are harvested by hand picking, but most are picked by tall equipment that cuts the entire cluster of dates at once.
There are more than 600 varieties of dates worldwide. They are divided into three categories: soft, semi-soft, and dry. Soft dates are sweet and have lots of moisture and a soft skin and flesh. Semi-soft dates are sweeter, have less moisture, and are firmer. Dry dates are very sweet and have the least moisture and dry and hard flesh.
These are considered the "King of Dates" due to their large size, soft flesh, and extreme sweetness.
These dates are very round and have a dark amber color. They are soft and have a rich, caramel flavor. Dates are more dark amber in color.
For 7,000 years, the farmers of Siwa Oasis in the Western Egyptian desert have been taking advantage of water in the desert in order to grow chewy Siwa Oasis dates.
These caramel-colored dates are a bit drier, firmer, and less sweet. This is direct from Moroco through our Branch there "Gannat"