History of Dates
An old Arabic legend tells of the Date palm's creation: "After God had finished molding Man from Earth; He took the remaining material and shaped it into a date palm which he placed in the Garden of Paradise".
Since before the existence of Man over 50,000 years ago - Date palms and their fruit have been instrumental to humans. The Mesopotamians recognized the tree's versatility and value; its sweet fruit became an essential part of their diet. The palm offered "three hundred and sixty" uses including needles, thread, lumber, mattresses, rope, baskets and other household items; as well as food and beverage.
Feet in Water, Head in Fire
Date palms are said to thrive with their "feet in water and heads in the sun" because they need plenty of ground water to drink, but high heat and arid weather to produce fruit.
Growing and Harvesting Dates
Commercially grown date palms are from offshoots to ensure desired date variety qualities. The scientific name, Phoenix dactylifera, refers to feather palms that may grow more than 100 feet and live more than 200 years.
Date palms are dioecious - having male and female trees. Females bear the fruit, males produce pollen. Commercial date gardens typically have one male and fifty female trees planted per acre. Natural pollination by wind is not efficient. Hand pollination is one of the oldest agricultural techniques. Using the mechanical pollination method, pollen collected from male flowers is mixed with a carrier such as flour, and is dusted on just-opened female flower clusters.