“Strange Tree with Precious Fruit”
God gives a lot of blessings to mankind; fruits have more importance in the food ingredients. Date palm is one of the best fruit trees having both ornamental and medicinal importance. Date palm was initially cultivated in the land of Iraq and Middle East approximately 5000 years ago. The best varieties of date palm are in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt. It is very delicious fruit for everyone, Prophets also liked it. The Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) says: “Use dates at the time of IFTAR as it is purifying” More than twenty times the word “Nakhal” meaning dates is mentioned in the Holy Quran. There are many health benefits of consuming dates. This fruit is full of nutrition, having rich source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibers. Dates have simple sugars which are readily available. The different ingredients having different functions like dietary fiber are helpful in improving the functionality of critical digestive system. Dates are beneficial for health conscious people because of having fewer fats. As I mentioned above that dates contain high amount of minerals like potassium which is helpful in regulating the nervous system. Dates are having much of calcium and fluorine which strengthens the tooth and prevent from decay.
Date palm is hardy plant which can survive harsh conditions of climate. Popular saying about date palm is “Head in fire and foot in water”. It requires high temperature, dry weather and less rain. Due to this it is also called the tree of oasis. Propagation is the most important process of increasing the number of plants and propagation of date palm is through both seed and suckers. Suckers are called as off-springs of date palm trees. These trees commercially propagated through suckers because these are true to type and similar to their parents. Plants propagated through seeds are good according to breeding point of view, but not for commercial purpose because fifty percent of plants are male when produced through seed.
Date palm is dioecious tree, having male and female inflorescences on separate tree. It needs cross pollination for fruit setting. Natural pollination is through wind, bees and other insects but commercially artificial pollination is done through different methods like placement, dusting and pollinator etc. Artificial pollinator is used more than other methods which maximize fruit setting and gives bumper yield.
Fruit is harvested on different stages according to market requirement and people’s choice. Fruit harvesting starts from third stage of development which is Khalal locally also known as Doka. Some people like doka as such and other people consume it after processing. Next fruit is harvested at fourth stage Rutab which is also known as Dung, in this stage fruit become soft and partially ripened. Rain can damage fruit at this stage but if we harvest fruit and sundry then it can be saved up to one year. Next to Rutab Stage is final stage i.e Tamar Stage in which fruit flesh is soft and more sugary.
As I discuss earlier that date palm can survive in tough and harsh climatic conditions. Date palm tree can grow in almost every type of soil even it can survive in those soils which are affected by salinity. If we grow date palm trees, we can utilize fallow and marginal lands, earn money, reduce poverty, make society full of nutrition and improve the life standards of common people.
Mahmood Ul Hasan
B.Sc. (Hons.) Agri. Sciences
B.Sc. (Hons.) Human Nutrition & Dietetics