The promiscuity of the date tree

Demons, promiscuity, lovers torn apart, and imminent death.

When researching this humble, yet delicious date, I had no idea I was going to learn about the world’s most romantic and satanic plants.

You may be like I once was, totally uninterested in dates. Think they look like wrinkly elderly noses in a package. Everyone I know thinks I am disgusting for being so madly in love with these sweet little treasures. I never thought much about dates. Or the fact that there are thousands of varieties of these beautiful fruit, and that they have three different edible stages.

All I knew is that they looked mushy, gross and I had no idea what to do with them. My first experience with dates, was both delicious and slightly disastrous. More than two years later, I am one of their largest fans. I probably consume at least two dates a day. They are incredibly nutrient rich, and one of the original “super foods”. 

But did you also know they are one of the world’s most promiscuous plants?

Yes, plants can be “loose”. Before date growers locked down the now modern way of farming these beauties, orchards of these bad boys were close to a brothel. The story of the sexy dates. This is going to get pretty hilarious. Date palms are unique in that they have male and female trees. The males have the pollen, and the female trees have these delicate flowers that open for only a few days a year. Legend has it that the males would blow the pollen all over orchards, or the wind would pick up the pollen, and boom! The female trees were pollinated! This was not yielding the best results as each tree has individual DNA like human beings. Farmers were noticing that some of the males were much more superior for breeding. They also noticed that allowing the trees to do what they wanted every year wasn’t producing the yield they needed. It was much more effective to transplant the pollen manually, because the birds and bees were not attracted to the female flowers. Poor females.

So, these RUTHLESS farmers, decided to chop down a bunch of the males and focus on planting only females.

Poor males. They just wanted to pollinate.

Tragic, in so many ways.

Do you understand how much work goes into pollinating these females? The farmers literally must transplant pollen and strands from male trees into each individual flower. This can take several trips up the palm trees. Not the palm trees you see in Florida. These palms are roughly around 75 feet tall. Not to mention that the ideal pollination conditions for date palms hover around 90 degrees. I used to bitch about the price of dates, then I picture those farmers, sitting in 90-degree weather, blistering sun, waiting for those delicate flowers to open. Hacking their way up into the air, hovering above the ground at 75 feet, placing individual pollen strands into the flowers, climbing down, only to return up a few more times to do it again.

For every. single. tree.

My mind was blown. I would never again complain that a package was 8 dollars. These farmers should have some sort of party thrown for them each year! This is back breaking work. A type of work that requires extreme patience, endurance, and love. The love they pour into these trees is admirable.

Maybe you aren’t impressed. Maybe you are thinking? So, what. That seems sort of hard, but really, you aren’t shook to your core. Alright, so let me throw this one at you-date palms fall in love.

I repeat: Date Palms fall in love.

Gasp! What?!

Yes, my friends, the date palm has the capacity to love. Or so legend has it. Years back, a story out of Arabia rose about an esteemed female date palm. She was one of the strongest, most beautiful, prized palm in a farmer’s orchard. For many years, she supplied the farmer with pounds of stunning baskets of dates. Suddenly, she stopped. For two solid years she wouldn’t budge. The farmer was stumped. He called in a date palm specialist (yes that exists). The specialist walked around the tree, climbed up to the top of the majestic plant, inspecting every inch of the plant. He came down only to announce there was nothing wrong. She was healthy, and he could not see any reason health wise to declare her as retired. As he was explaining there was nothing wrong, he decided to try one more theory. He looked to the palms left, looked to the right, and he noticed in the distance a single male to the corner of the female tree. He declared she must be in love with that male tree as her branches were leaning in that direction.

He stated she must only be pollinated by that tree, and she will once again bare fruit. The farmer tried, and was mesmerized as his once trusty tree once again began to yield addicting dates at an alarming rate.

Now we all know legends are typically truthful, but I must say this seems very likely.

Even if it isn’t, I thought it was one of the most charming, magical stories I have ever heard about a tree. From what I have read in addition to this tree is that is so deeply involved with so many cultures in the world, that I am not surprised in the folklore that these trees have feelings and emotions.

The date palm is something I truly fell in love with throughout my research, it has such a significance in so many cultures, that you can’t help but fall for something that is so crucial to so many people.

Not to mention romantic tree stories? Demons? Oh yes, the demons. Those will be outlined in my winter date salad post. With all things romantic, there needs to be a demonic twist. It is only fair.

All the research about my revered dates, came from an incredibly interesting read, called “Dates: A Global History” by Nawal Nasrallah. The importance of this ingredient was so enlightening, it made me think about more than just the concept of trees in love, or date demons. But it made me think more philosophically going into the New Year. As this is the first Feature Ingredient of the New Year, we are all trying to make changes. And growth is a lot like growing dates. It takes a lot of years, several trips up and down, and to yield something wonderful, you must have patience and make sure you make the right moves. There is a quote in the book that I found so inspiring:

“Rise above ignobility and be like the date palm
When stones are thrown at it, it retaliates with sweet dates.”

This quote really spoke to me moving into 2018, because I think that our first reaction as human beings can be to retaliate when life attempts to throw negativity our way. With everything that has been happening in the world, and not too many positives being highlighted, we have a bad habit of focusing on the negatives in life. One of my goals this year is to make sure I am bringing positivity wherever I go, and whatever I face.

Life can be difficult. But like, the date palm, we are both tough and beautiful!