On my first visit to Oman, I was offered “a hot sticky date?” Hot from lying in the sun, sticky and explosively sweet. I fell in love. With the date, not the guy who offered it to me. My kitchen cupboard currently stocks dates, date syrup, granola sweetened with dates and some rather fabulous date and orange balls. I may have left Oman for now, but rest assured, I packed boxes full of dates!
Dates are the main agricultural crop in Oman and the country is the world’s 8th largest producer of dates. They are offered with coffee and as gifts, they often break the fast during Ramadan, and apparently, they kept scurvy at bay for sailors in times passed.
Traditionally, I am told, a date palm was planted for the birth of a son. The palm would grow with him, and provide nourishment throughout his lifetime.
Dates – you may think you know them, but here are five things I bet you haven’t heard before:
2) Dates do not naturally grow in neat bunches arranged around the tree trunk. The farmer brings down the stems after the flowers have been pollinated, to safeguard the dates from the wind and to make the harvesting process easier and safer.
3) There are two types of dates – dates for eating and dates used as animal fodder.
4) Harvesting the dates involves climbing up the trunk using a rope traditionally made from dried date palm leaves.
5) The most popular date types in Oman are Fardh, Khalas and Khunaizi – Khalas is apparently the best while Khunaizi is the most sugary in taste.