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The Bride of the Orchard

  • The Legend
  • The Biology
  • The Uses
  • The Recipes

The date palm (phoenix dactylifera) or "The Bride of the Orchard" as it is affectionately known in this region, has been cultivated and cherished for centuries. There are a number of theories as the true origin of the date palm, some historians claim tt it came from Mesopotamia, one theory suggests that it came from an island inBahrain and moved later to Mesopotamia. The more popular theory is that dates first appeared in Egypt around 4500BC, even before the first sign of hieroglypics.

Nowadays, Iraq, Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are the leading date producing and exporting countries. There are eighteen million in the UAE alone! The date season is from July to December; specifically August, in the UAE. The Biology

The "Bride of the orchard" lives as long as 150 years, she bears fruit after the first five years and reaches her prime at 10 to 20 years. She grows to a height of 23 metres and is the only symmetrical tree. Her fruits have been the staple food and chief source of wealth in North Afica and the Middle east. The date is a one-seeded fruit, which varies in shape, size, colour, quality and consistency of flesh. There are over 2000 different varieties of hte date and generally a date palm may produce between 12 and 20 bunches of dates (Al ithig) weighing 8 kgs each.

The dates are eaten at various stages : Khalal(unripe) the date is hard and yellow; Rutab (semi-ripe), softer with more moisture, yellow and brown' Tamr (fully ripe and brown) the stage at which most varieties. Some of the date varieties available in the UAE include : Barhi, Braim, Ikhallas, Sultani, Lou-Lou, Hilalee, Suqari, nebtat-Saif and Shi-Shi.

The Uses
There were and still remain, hundreds of uses for the date palm , no better described to us by this Ancient Arab : "We shade ourselves with it, we eat its fruit, we feed our animals from its seeds, we make pots and mats from its leaves, we build ceiling and columns from its trunk and we use it as a fuel". Indeed the date paml played an tegral role in the history of Arab Life.

The date, was not only a staple source of food but has been well documented to have been used for medicinal purposes. The date has been used as the primary ingredient in remedies to kill worms, cure sneezing, mixed with cinnamon and milk for an aphrodisiac and even used to make a potion to accelerate hair growth! And why not! Teh date is packed with goodness! The dried fruit is seventy percent sugar (fructose) by wiegt and contains about two percent each of protein, fat and mineral matter : Potassium, Iron, Vitamin A1, B1 (Thiamine), B2(Riboflavin), B3(Niacin), Phosphorus, Calcium and Magnesium.

Prophet Mohammed said, "Who breaks te fast in the morning with seven dates will be protected throughtout the day from poison and witchcraft". This translates, that a person who eats dates for breakfast in the morning will be assured of physical and mental health throughout the day.

Dates and date palms have been revered in the Ancient Egyptian, Christian, Jewish, and Islmaic religions, traditional and legends. Date palm leaves (Al Saafa) are used for the celebration of Palm Sunday among Christians and for the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles among Jews. The Holy Koran mentions the date twenty times; "With it we grow for you gardens of date palms and vines.. In them have ye abundant fruits. And of them ye eat (and have enjoyment)". (Mu-minun 19). Prophet Muhammed has referred to the date and date palm in several of his speeches, "A house with a date palm will never go hungry".

Traditional Recipes of the UAE
Rangeena - Dates with a flour roux topping

  • 2lbs (950 grams)fresh and very ripe dates
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 -1.5 cups flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamon
Batheeth - Date Crumble
  • 4 cups wheat flour
  • 2 3/4 cups she - ripe sticky date
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 1/4 cups toasted sesame seeds
  • 3/4 cup samen
Brown the flour in a skillet, stirring to avoid burning. Stone the dates and pull them apart with your hand. Place in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the cardamom and sesame seeds over. Gradually add the samen and browned flour, a little at a time, working the ingredients in with the fingertips. When all is well blended, the mixture should resemble large biscuit crumbs. Store in an airtight container and serve on a fou-alla. The mixture will keep or a week.

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