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MEDJOOL DATE PALMS
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Phoenix dactylifera, is popularly known as the date palm. Although commonly referred to as a "palm tree", they are actually a true palm not a tree, and all palms, including the date palm, belong to a group of plants that are known as monocotyledons which include grasses, bamboos, palms, lilies, daffodils, irises, hostas, and orchids.
There are many other palms that produce edible drupes or dates, however their "dates" are almost all seed with very little flesh and most are quite small. Only phoenix dactylifera - the true "date palm" produces the large edible dates that are cultivated and sold today. The female phoenix dactylifera palm produces dates from 1 to 3 inches long with varying degrees of sweetness. There are hundreds of named varieties of phoenix dactylifera date palms, and one of the most famous is the large soft Medjool date palm, while the most widely grown date is the semi-dry Deglet Noor date palm. A few of the other famous date palm varieties which are available in California are the Barhi date palms, the Zahidi date palm, and the Halawi date palm. Each of these date palm varieties produce delicious dates with distinct differences in flavor, moisture content, and size.
Phoenix dactylifera date palms have been cultivated by man for at least six thousand years! Date palms are mentioned in the bible, and their leaves were carried as symbols of victory by kings in ancient times. Date palm leaves were also used to hail Jesus during His entry into Jerusalem. Today Christian's have Palm Sunday, and Muslims break their Ramadan fast each night by eating a date. Islam regards the date palm tree as the tree of life.
The date palm is not as well known in the USA, but it is very important in the Middle East and Northern Africa because the date palm grows well in the dry desert heat of these areas. In the past, dates had a very important role in these desert regions as the staple food crop. It was comparable to rice, wheat, and potatoes in other cultures!
For commercial date production, the top date producing regions are the Middle East and North Africa. Iraq was the largest producer of the dates, although today Iran is thought to be the largest producer. Saudi Arabia is another major producer of dates and their national symbol has date palms. Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria produce large commercial quantities of dates, and these countries also have date palms on their stamps and currency.
In the USA, dates are being grown in Southern California, Southwestern Arizona, and around Las Vegas, Nevada.
Dates are also grown in some areas of Mexico and in South America, as well as in Australia, Western China, Western India, and in Southern Pakistan. According to the World Food and Agricultural Organization, there are an estimated 100 million date palm trees worldwide. An estimated 60% of all date palms are grown in the Middle East and North Africa.
Date palms grow well throughout Southern California where they are used mostly in landscaping. There are three main date palm varieties commonly used in California for landscaping; the Medjool date palms, the Zahidi date palms, and the Deglet Noor date palm. Another less well know date palm variety that is very desirable for landscaping is the Halawi date palm, which is even larger and more majestic than the Medjool date palm.
Deglet Noor date palms are often planted in shopping centers and malls throughout southern California giving an immediate tropical look to the setting. Medjool date palms have a larger & more full and dense canopy compared to the Deglet Noor, which has a canopy that is more sparsely open with fewer fronds. The Medjool and Zahidi date palms are very similar in appearance with beautiful silvery green foliage, although the Zahidi date palm usually has a slightly larger trunk than the Medjool and the Zahidi's canopy is slightly more full and dense - a very beautiful landscape specimen.
Date palms like full sun and plenty of water, although they are very drought hardy and can survive extended periods without watering once they are established. Newly planted date palms require frequent watering until they are well established. Mature date palms can withstand temperatures several degrees below freezing.
Male date palms are popular for landscaping in California because the male date palms flower briefly in the spring without the yearly crop of dates that female date palms have which can attract unwanted insects, rodents, etc.
For commercial date production, date palms require summertime heat and air with little moisture as is found in the Southern California deserts, and they require lots of water!
In its early years, the date palm produces off-shoots which can be removed and planted. Female date palm off-shoots will usually begin to produce fruit at about 12 years of age. Date palms can also be grown from seed, however the quality of the dates will vary in seedling date palms and only about half the palms grown from seed will be females. Female date palms grown from seed also take much longer to produce dates, usually 15 years or more.
Date palms do pollinate naturally by wind, bees and other insects, but proximity of the male date palms to the females is crucial, and date production from open polination is usually very low. Artificial pollination increases date production substantially. Artificial pollination of date palms is performed using the date palm pollen from male date palm flowers to polinate the female date palm flowers.The photo at left shows a just opened male date palm flower.
The flower stalks of both male and female date palms are produced inside a spathe which emerges from the axils of the leaves in the same position where the offshoots are produced. The date palm flowers form within the long stout spathe which, on bursting, exposes many thickly crowded floral branchlets which are stout and short in the male date palm inflorescence, and the branchlets are long and slender in female date palm inflorescence. An adult female date palm produces 10 - 20 spathes in early spring each year. The male flowers are borne single and are waxy white, while the female flowers are borne in clusters of three and are yellowish green in colour. A male spathe that is ready to split assumes a brown colour and a soft texture. Immediately after the spathe breaks open and the male inflorescence appears, these male flowers reach their maturity. Date growers traditionally harvest the male flowers within one or two days after the spathe splits open.
We have fresh male date palm flowers available in March and April each year for use in pollination, and also as a source of fresh date palm pollen.
To purchase fresh date palm male flowers (and date palm pollen), call (909) 941 1060.
There are several methods of date palm polination in use today. The oldest and simplest pollination technique consists of placing an entire male flower spathe in the crown of the female date palm and leaving the pollination to wind, bees and other insects. This technique does not always yield uniform fruit sets unless if several of the male flower spathes are placed in the crown of the female date palm. This requires the availability of numerous male flower spathes.
Successful commercial date production requires artificial pollination to ensure good pollination. In locations where labor is relatively expensive, the pollination is mechanized. Mechanized pollination reduces the number of male date palms needed for pollination. The male/female ratio in a modern commercial date palm plantation with mechanized pollination is generally about 40 females to one male date palm. The most common technique of pollination in regions with inexpensive labor is to cut the strands of male flowers from a freshly opened male spathe and place two to three of these strands, lengthwise and in an inverted position, between the strands of the female inflorescence after some pollen has been shaken over the female inflorescence.
The date fruit takes about six months to ripen. In the middle east, there are four named stages of date ripening; kimri, khalal, rutab, and then tamar. The kimri stage is while the dates are green. The khalal stage is when the dates have grown to their maximum size and turn yellowish or reddish depending on the specific date variety. In the rutab stage, the dates begin to soften and lose their bright colors. The date is fully mature at the tamar stage.
Most dates are eaten at the fully mature tamar stage, although the Barhi and Halawi dates are also eaten at Khalal stage, when they are sweet and crunchy.
Dates are classified as soft, semi-dry, and dry. The dry dates are commonly used in the middle east for everyday consumption. The sweeter dates are used as a dessert in the Middle East as well as the United States. Among the sweeter dates is the Medjool Date which is considered by many to be the "king of dates" and was once reserved only for royalty! The medjool is known for its unusually large size and its delicious flavor. It can grow to about three inches long and even though it is classified as a soft date it is firmer and more resilient than most other soft dates and it handles much better as well. The Medjool date was brought to the United States through the United States Department of Agriculture. There was a disease in Morocco that was spreading quickly among the Medjool date palms and a Moroccan official offered some shoots to a representative from the USDA which in turn were taken and planted in California. The medjool is now thriving in California as one of the top varieties of dates.
Mature female date palms yield an average of about 100 pounds of dates per palm each year. One of the most important factors in date yield is the amount of irrigation water they receive. The cultivation of dates is very labor intensive and dangerous. While the dates are maturing on the palm, the dates are preyed upon by small mammals, birds, and insects. Farmers place a protective bag around each date cluster to prevent access to the dates and also for rain protection. Some date varieties are much more vulnerable to moisture. Soft dates are much more difficult to cultivate and require extensive care and handling.
We offer both male & female date palms for sale in California, including female medjool date palms grown from offshoots. Our Medjool date palms are available in all sizes from recently removed pups or "offshoots" to full grown mature palms. The photo at left shows a rooted medjool offshoot at 8 years old.
We also have female Zahidi date palm offshoots in stock right now, with more Barhi date palm offshoots and Halawi date palm offshoots available again soon.
Male date palms are typically used for landscaping, and also as a source of date palm pollen for pollination of female date palms.
Female date palms are usually grown for date production. Male date palms for landscaping are relatively inexpensive, while some female date palms grown from off-shoots of specific date cultivars have very limited availability and high demand.
Older mature date palm trees are sold based on their age and the amount of woody trunk the palm has: a recently removed pup usually has about 1 foot of woody trunk, a 12 foot tall date palm has about 4 feet of woody trunk, and a 20 foot tall date palm has about 10 feet of woody trunk. Please call 909 941 1060 for current date palm price & availablilty.
We also have rooted medjool date palm off-shoots for sale in 15 gallon pots for those who wish to grow their own dates at home in their yard, in addition to our larger size mature female medjool date palms. Our smaller size male date palm rooted offshoots are also for sale in 15 gallon to 25 gallon pots (male date palms are used for polination & for landscaping).
Our female medjool date palm "rooted" offshoots are in 15 gallon and 25 gallon pots. These medjool palm pups were removed from their medjool mother palms over one year ago. They have now developed their own roots, and they have put out at least 2-3 feet of new growth. Our 8 year old female medjool date palm rooted off-shoots stand about 7 to 8 feet tall. These rooted medjool off-shoots are ready for planting. Please call 909 941 1060 for price information and how to purchase.
We have fresh picked organically grown medjool dates available for purchase each year in October and November. In 2014, we will once again have a limited quantity of organically grown fresh picked Jumbo size medjool dates available. Each year we sell out before the crop is picked, so be sure to place your order early! We will begin taking orders for the 2014 crop of organic medjool dates on August 25.
Halawi dates (aka Halawy) are a very sweet soft date variety of medium size with wonderful caramel-honey like flavor. The halawi date palm variety is from Mesopotamia, and the name actually means "sweet" in Arabic. In some cultures, the halawi date is eaten at the khalal stage when it has become yellow and is still crunchy like an apple. The flavor at this khalal stage is less sweet and very different. If allowed to ripen further, the halawi date will next enter the rutab stage where it begins to turn a beautiful golden-amber color as it softens and becomes very sweet and delicious. Halawi date palms grow very well in Southern California. For landscaping, the halawi date palm trunk and canopy is much larger than both the medjool and the zahidi, making the halawi date palm a very impressive landscape specimen!
Zahidi date palms (aka Zehedi, Zadie, and originally from the Persian Azadi) produce a very sweet delicious date of medium size that can be used as a soft date or as a dry date, depending on the length of time it is allowed to remain on the palm.
The zahidi date palm is a very old variety from Mesopotamia dating back thousands of years, and the name meant Nobility in ancient Persian. Ripe zahidi dates have beautiful golden-yellow color and they are early season.
The Zahidi date palm offshoots shown at left are 12 & 14 year old rooted off-shoots in 25 gallon pots.
We have female zahidi date palm offshoots available with special pricing. Right now, we only have about one dozen of these 12 to 14 year olds female zahidi offshoots available (see photo at left). These rooted zahidi offshoots stand from 12-15 feet tall and have from 1-2 feet of woody trunk. They are now old enough to start producing dates! Please call (909) 941 1060 for pricing.
Zahidi date palms are very vigorous and prolific in fruiting, and they grow well in Southern California. For landscaping, the zahidi date palm is among the finest of the date palms. The zahidi trunk and canopy is very similar to the medjool date palm with beautiful silvery green foliage, and the zahidi has a slightly more dense upright canopy than the medjool. Like the medjool, the zahidi date palm is highly prized for the quality and flavor of its dates, and for its fine appearance.
Dates have 20 different kinds of amino acids, which aid in the digestive process. Dates are very rich in both vitamins and minerals, and they contain more potassium than an orange or a banana per ounce. These nutritious fruit of the date palm contain vitamins A, A1, B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6. Dates also are rich in oil, calcium, sulfur, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, protein and fiber. Dates are fat free, cholesterol free, and they are very low in sodium. Dates also are high in carbohydrates, and they are an excellent source of quick energy. Dates are helpful to people suffering with anemia, constipation and fatigue. Dates act as natural laxatives and can be an easy remedy for constipation. In most dates varieties, the sugar content of a date is almost entirely of the inverted forms glucose and fructose (except for deglet noor dates and thoory dates which have higher percentages of sugar in the form of sucrose). This is very important important for people who cannot tolerate sucrose. The invert sugar in dates is immediately absorbed by the human body without the need for digestion that ordinary sugars like sucrose undergo.
Traditionally, the fruit of the date palm has been used for treating many kinds of ailments in the Islamic world including the treatment of respiratory disorders, and to stimulate the heart rate. Dates also have traditionally been processed into a salve for treating certain kinds of wounds. The fruit of the true date palm also is recommended for consumption by lactating women to add extra nutrition into their diet. The Plant Sciences Division website at the University of California at Davis, states that Bedouin Arabs who eat dates on a regular basis have shown an extremely low incidence of cancer and heart disease when compared with people who do not eat dates regularly.
The fruit of the true date palm also makes great emergency food rations due to the date's high caloric content and nutritional value combined with date's ablity to keep well for long periods of time.