WHAT IS DATE PALM?

Phoenix dactyliferaWHAT IS DATE PALM?
The Date palm, with the botanical name, Phoenix dactylifera, is a tree of the palm family (Arecaceae). It is cultivated for its sweet edible fruits. The date palm has remained most valuable for ages and is believed to have originated from what is known today as Iraq.

The fruit has been the staple food and chief source of wealth in the irrigable deserts of North Africa and the Middle East. History has it that Spanish missionaries carried the date tree to the New World in the 18th and early 19th centuries from where it spread to the Canary Islands, northern Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, India, Mexico, and the U.S. state of California. There are various species of date including: Zahidi, Thoory, Halawi, Khadrawy, Barhi, Denhlet Noor and Mejdool date

Description
The date palm grows about 23 metres (75 feet) tall. Its stem, strongly marked with the pruned stubs of old leaf bases, terminates in a crown of graceful, shining, pinnate leaves about 5 metres (16 feet) long.
It usually has floral spikes that branch from the axils of leaves that emerged the previous year. It has male and female flowers which are borne on separate plants. Under cultivation the female lowers are artificially pollinated. The date is a one-seeded fruit, or drupe, usually oblong but varying much in shape, size, colour, quality, and consistency of flesh, according to the conditions of culture and the variety. More than 1,000 dates may appear on a single bunch weighing 8 kg (18 pounds) or more.

Planting Date Palm
The tree is propagated either from seeds, by cloning an adult plant or from suckers.

Seed
To grow a date tree from a date pit, soak several date seeds for a week in cold water, changing the water daily to prevent mold or bacterial contamination. Plant the seeds in a pot in potting soil, protected from cold temperatures. Since you don’t know which seeds will germinate and which won’t plant several seeds in one pot. Keep the soil surface moist but not so wet that mold begins to grow. You can do this on a sunny windowsill in the house. It takes several weeks for the seeds to show above the surface of the pot. The seeds will send up a single green shoot that turns into a flat, tall leaf, 12 to 18 inches tall. After a few months, a second leaf will join the first leaf.

Once the date leaf is 6 to 8 inches tall, carefully remove the leaf and its seed from the pot and transplant it into a new pot that is at least 8 inches deep. You’ll notice that the leaf grows a little ways away from the seed rather than directly above it. Carefully remove both the leaf and the root system together so that you don’t damage the plant. You’ll transplant the date palm into larger pots as it grows.

Clonning
In commercial date orchards, date trees are grown by cloning adult date trees. This brings the trees into fruit production faster.

Suckers
Offshoots that arise chiefly near the base of the stem in the early years of the life of the palm. Offshoots are used for commercial plantings. When offshoots are three to six years old and have formed roots of their own, they are removed and planted. Palms begin to bear fruit in 4 to 5 years and reach full bearing at 10 to 15 years, yielding 40 to 80 kg (90 to 180 pounds) or more each. Palms are known to live as long as 150 years, but their fruit production declines, and in commercial culture they are replaced at an earlier age.

Preserving Date
Dates are preserved by simply drying, giving them a long shelf life, and many varieties, are often sold dried. The dried fruit is more than 50 percent sugar by weight and contains about 2 percent each of protein, fat, and mineral matter. Other types of dates, such as the medjool, are eaten as fresh produce and gradually shrink and wrinkle as they age.

Uses of the Date Palm
As is characteristic of all PALM plants, all parts of the date palm yield products of economic value. Its trunk furnishes timber; the midribs of the leaves supply material for crates and furniture; the leaflets, for basketry; the leaf bases, for fuel; the fruit stalks, for rope and fuel; the fibre, for cordage and packing material; and the seeds are sometimes ground and used as stock feed. Syrup, alcohol, vinegar, and a strong liquor are derived from the fruit. The sap is also used as a beverage, either fresh or fermented, but, because the method of extraction seriously injures the palm, only those trees that produce little fruit are used for sap. When a palm is cut down, the tender terminal bud is eaten as a salad.

Eating Dates
Dates can be eaten fresh or dried, much like raisins. People can also add them to a variety of sweet or savory dishes. They are incredibly versatile and make a delicious snack. Dates are definitely worth adding to your diet, as they are both nutritious and delicious. Dates are also very sticky, which makes them useful as a binder in baked goods, such as cookies and bars. You can also combine dates with nuts and seeds to make healthy snack bars or energy balls, as in this recipe.

You can use dates to sweeten up sauces, such as salad dressings and marinades, or blend them into smoothies and oatmeal. Dates are obviously a high in calories and their sweet taste makes them easy to overeat, therefore, they are best consumed in moderation.

Health Benefits of Dates
Dates are proven to be high in antioxidants, which may contribute to many of their health benefits. They contain several vitamins and minerals, in addition to fiber and antioxidants. However, they are high in calories since they are dried. Verifiable record indicates that a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of Date / Debino provides the
following nutrients (1):
Calories: 277
Carbs: 75 grams
Fiber: 7 grams
Protein: 2 grams
Potassium: 20% of the RDI
Magnesium: 14% of the RDI
Copper: 18% of the RDI
Manganese: 15% of the RDI

⦁ Dates are high in fiber, which may be beneficial for preventing constipation. Getting enough fiber is important for the overall health of everybody. In one scientific study, 21 people who consumed 7 dates per day for 21 days experienced improvements in stool frequency and had a significant increase in bowel movements compared to when they did not eat dates.

⦁ Dates contain several types of antioxidants that may help prevent the development of certain chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Antioxidants protect body cells from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that may cause harmful reactions in your body and lead to disease.

The three most potent antioxidants identified in dates are:

⦁ Flavonoids: they may help reduce inflammation and have been studied for their potential to reduce the risk of diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of cancer.
⦁ Carotenoids: are proven to promote heart health and may also reduce the risk of eye-related disorders, such as macular degeneration.
⦁ Phenolic acid: has anti-inflammatory properties which may help lower the risk of cancer and heart disease. **Dates promote brain health and may help improve brain function. Laboratory studies have found dates to be helpful for lowering inflammatory markers, such as interleukin 6 (IL-6), in the brain. High levels of IL-6 are associated with a higher risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

**Dates may promote and ease natural labour for pregnant women when consumed during the last few weeks of pregnancy. The role dates may have in pregnancy is likely due to compounds that bind to oxytocin (oxytocin is a hormone that causes labour contractions during childbirth) receptors and appear to mimic the effects of oxytocin in the body. Experts in alternative medicine suggest that eating dates throughout the last few weeks of pregnancy may promote cervical dilation and lower the need for induced labour adding that they may also be helpful for reducing labour time.

In one study, 69 women who consumed 6 dates per day for 4 weeks prior to their due date were 20% more likely to go into labour naturally and were in labour for significantly less time than those who did not eat them.

Another study of 154 pregnant women found that those who ate dates were much less likely to be induced compared to those who did not. Although eating dates appears to help promote labour and reduce labour duration, more research is needed to confirm these effects.

**Dates are a healthy substitute for white sugar in recipes due to their sweet taste, nutrients, fiber and antioxidants. The date remains an excellent natural sweetener being a source of fructose, which is a natural type of sugar found in fruit. Although dates are high in fiber and nutrients, they are still fairly high in calories and best consumed in moderation.

**Dates assist with various bowel/stomach discomfort ranging from indigestion, gas, runny stomach. Just take a few nuts and you will be fine promptly.

Conclusion
You have several ways to take advantage of all that the date (debino) can offer: either as a farmer, applied to meals or used to promote healthy living.

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