A childhood memory is of dates sitting on the sideboard every Christmas. My father enjoyed them as a Christmas treat. He used to spear them out of the box before tucking in. I’m not sure if it was a matter of seasonal availability or if the choice was the religious association with the Holy Land. I don’t see the same packaging in stores any more, but dates still appear in stores every Christmas.
Dates come from the Palm Tree, Phoenix dactylifera in the Arecaceae. The Palm is a dioecious – i.e. it has separate male and female trees. Dates are the fruits that grow on the female trees. Palm trees have been cultivated for thousands of years. Archaeology suggests that they were domesticated by at least 4000 BC. One male tree is grown for every 50-100 female trees. Although pollination can occur naturally by wind, the majority of trees are artificially pollinated for commercial use. Growers do not allow the trees to grow to their full maximum height so that the dates are produced at a more easily accessible height.
The most commonly seen variety in the UK is Medjool. Dates are prized for their high natural sugar content, fibre and nutritional value. They can form a staple diet for desert-living Arabs. While Palm Tree need high temperatures, their roots also need a good supply of water to produce good fruit. That explains why a good habitat is a desert oasis.
© Karen Andrews
References and Further Reading
- Davidson, Alan (2006): The Oxford Companion to Food. Second Edition. Ed. Tom Jaine. Oxford University Press.
- van Wyk, Ben-Erik (2005): Food Plants of the World. An illustrated guide.
Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.