Who could forget the famous sultry whisper of “Yusuf Taiyoob” come every fasting month. The name is synonymous with dates and is a testament to its marketing success. Dates (Phoenix dactylifera) are very much part of Southeast Asian culture and was probably introduced into the region by the spread of trade. We did some digging around and found that dates are as potent as figs and perhaps that’s the reason our forefathers took such a liking to them.
The date palm
Yes, dates grow on palms. some of our favorite food ingredients come from palm trees. These include attap chee, palm sugar (gula melaka), and sago. When chopped down, the young buds of coconut trees can be eaten raw in a salad. The leaves can also function as material for crates and furniture, and packing material. Our traditional rooftops are made from attap leaves, which is a type of palm.
Similar to the fig (which was covered in the April issue of HealthToday), the date palm is one of the oldest cultivated plants in human history having been grown in Saudi Arabia from 600 BC. It is believed to have originated in the area between Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Today, most of our dates come from Iraq, Iran, Arabia, and Morocco. Interestingly, dates are also cultivated in the US in states with hot tropical climates such as Florida and California, and also in Australia, Mexico, and South America. Each date palm can produce between 40 and 80 kg of fruit in each fruiting season.
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