We have long been accustomed to the phrase “palm” and we award it to the most worthy. Having uttered this phrase once again, I suddenly thought, what kind of palm tree are we talking about and where did the “palm tree” suddenly come from in our northern latitudes?
As it turned out, we are talking about the date palm: it was with its huge leaves that the victors were honored. Let's see what the date palm owes its fame to and what it's like to hold a palm leaf in our hands.
The history of the date palm began long before our era. Dates were grown in the interfluve of the Tigris and Euphrates for another 4 thousand years BC, in Ancient Egypt, Assyria and Sumer - 6 thousand years BC. Dates are found in pyramids, where they were left as food supplies for the spirits of the dead in the realm of the dead.
The role of the date palm in people's lives was so important that this plant has become firmly embedded in the religions of the people who use it. Palm Sunday immediately comes to mind, when the townspeople greeted Christ entering Jerusalem with palm leaves in their hands, later Christians of the northern countries began to meet this day with branches of blossoming willow more accessible in northern latitudes. The date palm is mentioned 20 times in the Qur'an. And the first texts of the Koran were written precisely on palm leaves. The columns in the ancient temples of Egypt are in the shape of a palm trunk, symbolizing the Tree of Life, and the lancet vaults are in the shape of palm crowns. Even shoes for Egyptian priests and temple employees were made exclusively from palm leaves.
Despite many millennia of cultivation and use of date palms, people still have not been able to find the wild species from which this benefactress of the human race originated. In all sources, it is found only as a plant grown by man. It is believed that its homeland is Mesopotamia, from where dates spread throughout Arabia and Egypt. Now the date palm is widely cultivated in all regions of the world, where the temperature does not fall below + 10 ° C, the most favorable temperature for good growth and fruiting is about + 25 ° C.
The date palm is widespread in North Africa, where more than half a million hectares of land are allotted for its cultivation. Until recently, Iraq was the largest supplier of dates in the world; after the outbreak of war in the region, this role passed to Egypt. Europe cannot boast of date harvests. The only place in Europe where dates bear fruit is in the south of the Iberian Peninsula, the area of palm growing here is small and amounts to less than 900 hectares. In the rest of Europe, date palms grow only as ornamental plants.
In the XVIII century. date palm was brought to the USA, where it took root well in the hottest states - Arizona and California, and now it successfully yields crops in Mexico, South Africa, Australia and even in Turkmenistan (Kyzyl-Atrek), where after acclimatization carried out by Soviet scientists in 1939, can even withstand short-term frosts down to -14 ° C.
The production volume of dates in the world is currently 3219 thousand tons per year.
Date, or Date palm(Phoenix) - genus of plants of the Palm family (Arecaceae), consisting of 14 species native to Eurasia and Africa.
The main species cultivated on plantations and the closest to the wild is the finger date (Phoenix dactylifera), which in Latin means "Phoenix carrying fingers", because after the death of the main trunk, the date is reborn from the growth and all its life bears fruit similar in shape to the fingers. This species is less decorative than others, but it grows quickly.
The tree grows up to 15-26 m tall. The straight trunk of a palm tree is covered with bases of dried leaf petioles, covering the trunk, which looks shaggy because of this. The diameter of the trunk can reach 80 cm. The thickness of the trunk is the same over the entire height of the tree.growth is carried out at the expense of the kidney, which is located at the top of the stem and produces identical layers of cells in its lower part. The kidney builds up the trunk tissue under it and rises up. The terminal bud is located 70 cm from the top of the tree and is reliably protected from the sides from external influences by the bases of the leaves. The kidney itself is creamy, elastic and warm, its temperature is stable + 18 ° C, despite external differences. A palm tree lives up to a hundred years, growing by 30-40 cm in height per year.
The starchy core of a young trunk has an almond flavor and is considered a large and very expensive delicacy, the receipt of which dooms the tree to death.
The date palm is distinguished by its heat tolerance and the ability to grow on highly saline soils. It needs warmth and shallow groundwater, then it can become an "oasis-forming" plant, in the shade of which cereals, melons and some vegetables are grown.
At the base of the trunk of certain species, shoots develop, which are used for vegetative reproduction.
Leaves - 5-6 m long, greenish-bluish hue, feathery and curving at the ends - are located at the top of the trunk in the form of a rosette. The leaves appear in succession from three superimposed spirals so that three leaves appear on the same level, located at an angle of 120 degrees to each other. The base of each leaf firmly clasps the entire trunk, which allows you to preserve the crown in strong winds.
The number of leaves, which in the crown of different species varies up to 200, their relative position and the length of the petiole are specific features. All dates are characterized by the presence of thorns on the leaf stalks. Huge odd-pinnate leaves of the palmate date consist of rigid linear-lanceolate leaves with a pointed edge at the apex. Their length is 20-40 cm, and the tip is cut in two. Leaf petioles are short and also with thorns. As you can see, palm leaves are large, heavy, sharp and thorny. So the meeting of the triumphants with palm leaves either harbored a philosophical reminder of the other side of the medal, or those who met used less thorny and lighter leaves of other types of palm trees.
The date palm is a dioecious, wind-pollinated plant. About 10 thousand small flowers are collected in panicle inflorescences growing in the leaf axils. The length of such a panicle is 1-2 m. Since ancient times, people have taken care of the harvest of dates by hanging male inflorescences on female plants. This honorific ceremony was performed by priests wearing bird masks, and even the pharaohs took part in it. The female flowers are white with a pleasant aroma, the male ones are creamy. Upon closer inspection, we see a cup-shaped flower cup with three petals. Male flowers bear 6 stamens, female flowers - 6 staminodes and 3 pistils, of which, as a rule, only one gives fruit. Each inflorescence ripens from 100 to 200 fruits. If there are too many inflorescences on the tree, they are pruned and thinned to get a quality harvest. A bunch of ripe dates weighs up to 18 kg.
The first harvest can be obtained in 4-5 years. Each mature tree produces 80-100 kg of dates per year and bears fruit for 60-80 years. The fruit is a cylindrical drupe up to 7 cm in length and up to 3 cm in diameter with a fleshy sweet pericarp, cutinized skin and a single seed.
The seed with horny protein is covered with a thin fibrous membrane and has a deep groove on the inner side, in the middle of it there is an embryo. Ripe fruits vary in color from yellow-brown to dark brown, depending on the species.
Dates are an invariable product of the peoples inhabiting the desert zone of the Arabian Peninsula and the Sahara. Nutritionists say that a person is able to live for several years, eating exclusively dates and water. It is not for nothing that dates were the basis of the diet of the soldiers of the ancient armies of the east in the campaigns and sea travelers of Africa and Eurasia.
In the historical novel by I.A.Efremova "Thais of Athens" mentions that the famous hetaira, who lived in the first century BC, was content with only three dates a day, which supported youth and harmony.
Caloric content of fruits - 227 kcal / 100 g. Dates contain 60-65% carbohydrates, 6.4-11.5% dietary fiber, 0.2-0.5% fat, a rich set of chemical elements (Cu, Fe, Mg, Zn , Mn, K, P, Na, Al, Se, Cd, Co, S, B, F, etc.) and 23 amino acids. It is even difficult to list all the useful properties of dates, there are so many of them. It is especially worth noting the presence of selenium, which plays the role of an oncoprotector and a high content of magnesium, potassium and antioxidants, which support the work of blood vessels, the heart and the nervous system. Among the amino acids, we note tryptophan, which is a neurotransmitter, i.e. responsible for conducting nerve impulses. Its presence contributes to the development of nerve endings and the restoration of innervation. In addition, dates contain a large amount of vitamins, they are especially rich in B vitamins.
The fluoride in fruits helps prevent tooth decay, despite the high carbohydrate content. The presence of a natural acid neutralizer in fruits allows maintaining the acid balance of the body, so that with heartburn, you can eat several dates instead of a pill. The use of dates helps to improve the condition of the hair.
Dates are also used as an expectorant, emollient, laxative, energizing and lactation-stimulating agent.
More information about the useful and medicinal properties of dates is in the article The date is a useful miracle of the desert.
The high sugar content of palm juice makes the plant a sugar bearer. The juice is used to make palm sugar and lakby palm wine. The inflorescences and stem produce up to 3 liters of sweet juice per day. Juice is obtained by pruning the inflorescences and making a transverse incisionov 1 cm deep and 6-7 cm wide at the top of the trunk. Also cultivated as a sugar bearer date palm forest (Phoenix sylvestris).
A person uses a palm tree 100%, not disregarding any part of the plant. Young buds are eaten, they are fermented and made "palm cheese", the bark is disassembled into fibers, they are used to make twine, ropes and ship gear. Leaves are used as roofing material, canes and fans are made of them, screens, screens, brooms, hats, rough fabrics, baskets, mats are weaved. Palm wood is a valuable building material in the desert.
Dates are used in the confectionery industry. Substandard and surplus fruits go to livestock feed, and camels are completely content with bones. Date oil is used in cosmetics and soap production.
For many centuries of cultivation of dates, about 5000 varieties have been bred, which are divided into 3 groups - dry, semi-dry and soft, depending on the softness of the ripe fruit. They also differ in sugar content: soft varieties contain mainly invert sugar (dextrose and glucose), and dry varieties contain sucrose. If dry varieties can be stored for an extremely long time when dried, then soft varieties are used fresh or processed, because they are poorly stored. Most often we see on the shelves semi-dry varieties of dates, dried in the sun, they make up the bulk of exports.
You can store dates for a year in a tightly closed container in a cool dark place, and in the freezer for up to 5 years.
Dates for indoor conditions
But the date palm has spread around the world much more widely as an ornamental plant. She is well known to residents of many European countries. It is successfully grown at home, where it requires space, light, warmth and humidity. We often "plant" date seeds by simply sticking the gnawed seed into the nearest pot. After 2-6 months, when we have already forgotten about our planting, dates can rise, causing our sincere surprise. The pulp of the fruit contains growth inhibitors, so that well "gnawed" seeds sprout before the fruits that have fallen into the ground. Sugar-free fruits do not affect their germination.
Young, actively growing plants need to be replanted annually, and adults - no more than once every 4 years, with an annual renewal of the topsoil of 2-4 cm.
Finger dates (Phoenix dactylifera) cultivated as the main species for harvesting, and also used for landscaping large buildings and cities.
Several other species are also widespread.
Canary date (Phoenix canariensis) differs in a thick trunk up to 1 m in diameter at a height of 12-18 m. Leaves are bright green, feathery, 4-6 m long, with a large number (up to 150 and more) leaves with a pointed edge. Leaf petioles are short, up to 80 cm, with strong needle-shaped spines up to 20 cm long. In the axils of the leaves, inflorescences of two types develop - male and female, male - short, female - up to 2 m long and branched. Fruits are orange-yellow, small.
Homeland - Canary Islands. It is widely distributed in the subtropical zone of North and South America, Australia and Africa, as well as in southern Europe as an ornamental plant. He is well known to everyone who has visited the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus and Crimea.
Date Robelena (Phoenix roebelenii) - the smallest and most decorative look. The height of the trunk is up to 2 m, but it has several trunks, while each of them bends, moving away from the center of the group. The trunks are slightly curved, "shaggy" from the petioles of fallen leaves. The leaves are dark green, narrow, curved, 50-70 cm long, the leaves are soft, narrow, 12-20 cm long, densely located on a thin rachis and forked at the end. The petiole is short, thin, easily bending. The fruits are black.
Found in tropical rainforests of India, Burma and Laos. Grows well in warm greenhouses and rooms.
Curved date(Phoenix reclinata) - a multi-stemmed plant with lateral shoots, looks like a dense bush. The trunks curve outward from the center of the group. The height of the trunk is up to 8 m with a diameter of 10-17 cm.The leaves are curved, about 6 m long and up to 1 m wide.The petiole is about 1 m with thin needle-like thorns from 3 to 12 cm long, growing singly or in groups of 2-3 ... Inflorescences are highly branching, up to 90 cm in size. Fruit color is from yellow to red.
Found in the tropics and subtropics of Africa.
Read the article How to grow a date palm from seed.
Preserving and revealing to people more and more new dignities from century to century, the date palm has become not only a palm tree, but also a symbol of hospitality among the Arabs. Its dignity is honored today: on September 15, the day of the date palm is celebrated annually. This decision was made in 1981 at the inter-Arab conference in Baghdad.
At the beginning of November, Tunisia celebrates every year the date harvest festival, in which everyone can take part.