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Date Facts

FACTS ABOUT DATES & HEALTH BENEFITS FROM DATES

Date Palm: Phoenix dactylifera – Palm in the genus Phoenix

Date FronThe Date Palm

The date is an erect palm that can grow to 100 or 120 feet in height.  Date palms are normally planted 50 per acre and cultivated in groves or orchards for their fruit. The date palm thrives in sand, clay, and other heavy soils. It needs good drainage, aeration, full exposure to sun, hot climate and plenty of water. From seedlings, date palms can take 6 to 10 years to bear fruit. Under ideal conditions, the plants keep on producing for a century or until the flowers are too high to pollinate and the fruits too high to pick. Date palms grow at an average rate of 1 to 1-1/2 feet per year. The fruit or dates grow in clusters on stalks up to 6 feet in length that elongate and bend to sometimes carry the weight of 1700 dates in one cluster. The fruit is oblong, 1 to 3 in length. Date fruit can be dark-brown, reddish, or yellowish-brown when ripe, with thin or thick skin. Dates have a sweet flesh with a single, slender, very hard stone grooved down one side. In botany, the date fruit is classified as a “drupe” similar to the peach, plum, cherry, apricot or nectarine.

When cultivated in groves, normally there is one male date palm plant used to pollinate 50 female plants. In the past, date palms were naturally wind pollinated but today in both traditional oasis horticulture and in commercial orchards they are pollinated by growers. Plants are pruned twice a year, with the surplus base leaves removed in spring and dry fronds removed in the fall. In California, date fruit clusters are covered with paper bags to shelter them from dust, predators, and rain that can damage their skin. Since all dates in a cluster do not ripen at one time; a number of pickings are required over a period of several weeks to complete the harvest. In the Coachella Valley, in California, dates ripen from late September through December and there can be 6 to 8 pickings per palm. In California, harvested date fruits are transported to packing plants, weighed, inspected by agents of the United States Department of Agriculture, fumigated, washed, cleaned, dried, graded, packed and stored under refrigeration conditions. This allows release to local markets according to demand and provides year-round availability.

Date PalmOrigin and Distribution

Dates are believed to have originated around the Persian Gulf region, and cultivated since ancient times from Mesopotamia and prehistoric Egypt, possibly as early as 6000 BC. Archeological evidence indicates date cultivation in eastern Saudi Arabia as early as 4,000 BC. Arabs were first to introduce these plants to Spain. Spanish explorers introduced the date into Mexico and Baja California by 1765 and date palms in California were planted by Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries by 1769. These plants are now cultivated as a profitable crop in drier parts of southern Arizona around Tempe, Phoenix and especially in the Coachella Valley, in California. Currently, there are approximately a quarter of a million plus - trees bearing date fruit in these areas.

Varieties

There are 1,500 types or descriptions of date fruit and palms listed country by country in Paul Popenoe’s book titled The Date Palm, written in 1924 and published in 1973 but the following are a short list of date varieties and origin grown here in the United States:

  • Barhi: introduced into California in 1913 from Basra, Iraq
  • Dayri: "Monastery Date" introduced into California in 1913 from Dayri, Iraq
  • Deglet Noor: introduced into California in 1900 from Algeria and Tunisia and constitutes approximately 95% of the California crop
  • Halawy: introduced into California from Iraq
  • Hayany: introduced into California in 1901 from Egypt
  • Khadrawy: grown to some extent in California and Arizona from Iraq & Saudi Arabia
  • Khastawi: grown in California from Iraq Maktoom: introduced into California in 1902 from Iraq
  • Medjool: introduced into California in 1927 from Bou Denib oases in French Morocco
  • Thoory: grown in California from Algeria
  • Morocco Thoory: grown in California from Algeria
  • Zahdi: oldest-known date, introduced into California about 1900 from Middle East
  • Amir Hajj: introduced into California in 1929 from Mandali Oasis in Iraq
  • Iteema: introduced into California in 1900 from Algeria

Nutritional Facts

This legendary fruit is full of nutrition, loaded with energy---captured from the sun and is considered a symbol of traditional hospitality. Dates contain protein and are rich in vitamins and minerals---full of natural energy for an active healthy lifestyle. Whether you work at home, in the office, run a marathon, exercise, jog, swim, or cycle 20 miles for fun; dates can deliver the energy to get you through your day. Eating just 5 or 6 dates can deliver 31 grams of carbohydrates providing a powerhouse of energy. With only 24 calories per date, dates are high in dietary fiber, low in fat, cholesterol, sodium, and contain more potassium than bananas! This makes dates a perfect choice as an energy-boosting snack. Few other fruits can offer this healthful combination. In addition, dates contain vitamins A1, B2, B3, B5, and more than 20 different amino acids. These acids help you digest and assimilate carbohydrates easier, control blood sugar levels and control the fatty acids content in your body. The selenium contained in dates lowers the risk of cancer and heart diseases. They also contain antioxidants, polyphenols, and phytochemicals that are natural plant compounds that provide a variety of health benefits.

Please consider, healthy diets often recommend eating foods that are low in sodium, fat, cholesterol, and high in fiber. Dates fit perfectly into a healthy lifestyle.

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