The Date Palm ,Phoenix dactylifera, is a palm, extensively cultivated for its edible fruit. Due to its long history of cultivation for fruit, its exact native distribution is unknown, but the date palm probably originated somewhere in the desert oases of north Africa, and perhaps also southwest Asia. It is a medium-sized tree, 15-25 m tall, often clumped with several trunks from a single root system, but also often growing singly. The leaves are pinnate, up to 3 m long, with spines on the petiole and about 150 leaflets; the leaflets are 30 cm long and 2 cm broad.
The fruit of the Date Palm is known as a date. They are oval-cylindrical, 3-7 cm long, and 2-3 cm diameter, yellow-brown in colour, and contain a single seed about 2-2.5 cm long and 6-8 mm thick. Three main types of date exist; soft, semi-dry, and dry. The type of fruit depends on the glucose, fructose and sucrose content.
Dates are naturally wind pollinated, but in modern commercial horticulture are entirely pollinated manually. Natural pollination requires about an equal number of male and female plants. However, with assistance one male can pollenize up to 50 females. Since the males are of value only as pollenizers, 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.
Pollination is done by skilled laborers on ladders, or less often the pollen may be blown onto the female flowers by wind machine. Date farmers in Iraq lost their 2003 crop, because the nation was at war during pollination time.
Parthenocarpic cultivars are available but the seedless fruit is smaller and of lower quality.
Dates ripen in four stages, which are known throughout the world by their Arabic names kimri (unripe), khalal (full-size, crunchy), rutab (ripe, soft), tamr (ripe, sun-dried). A 100 gram portion of fresh dates is a premium source of vitamin C and supplies 230 kcal (960 kJ) of energy. When dried, 100 grams of dates provides 3 grams of dietary fibre and supplies 270 kcal (1130 kJ) of energy.
Dates are an important traditional crop in Iraq, Arabia, and north Africa west to Morocco. In Islamic countries, dates and milk are a traditional first meal when the sun sets during Ramadan. Dates (especially Medjool) are also cultivated in southern California in the United States.
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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Dates".