date palms

iammarcus(6)March 8, 2011

So far I have learned date palms come in two sexes and P dactylifera is the commercial date palm. Are some of its cultivars Medjool, Deglet Noor, Thoory and Zahidi? How would I be sure I was getting both male and female plants, can the sexes be identified in imature plants?


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There is no way to tell until it flowers

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 6:26PM
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Dan, the forum is slow these days, so I thought I'd get to your questions. I have a sizable Phoenix sub-collection (mostly canariensis--grown from seed, roebellini, Cliff Island and Senegal). Yes, Medjool is a cultivar of the true date (P. dactylifera). You can only tell Phoenix genders apart once they flower. You only need one male though to pollinate a grove of females. I don't know where you are located, but the true date (P. dactylifera) is not easy in humid eastern climates--I lost all mine--repeatedly! They really resent high humidity--big time (think arid North Africa!). I have no problems with the other Phoenix species. I have not had flowers (yet) on my canariensis--only the roebellini (which blooms annually now). My two favorites from this genus are canariensis and roebellini. I love date fruits, but I buy all mine from the local grocery store. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 6:29PM
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However, most Date palm cultivars are not grown from seed, but from offsets, so then the sex would be known (same as the parent it offsetted from). Offsets not only guarantee the sex you want, but they also guarantee no hybridization (a big problem when growing date palms from seed... the flowers will happily be fertilized by any male Phoenix palm that just happens to blow by (literally)).

    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 8:12PM
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softmentor(z9/sunset13 CA desert)

Sorry I'm late to the party. I grow all 4 of these, although my Thoory is only 1 year old and I don't expect fruit for another 4 years. Good info so far. I'll add a little. You can not start from seed and get the same variety. Fruit from seedlings will be widely different than the parent, and of course half will be males and not produce fruit at all. To get a particular variety, you must cut offshoots and plant those.
Medjool the large fruit you can find at most grocery stores and Costco. Nice flavor, texture is a little grainy, like grains of sugar. Originally from Morocco, widely grown in CA and AZ, it is the second leading commercial date crop in US. Soft date, roots are more susceptible to too much water and root rot than others.
Deglet Noor name means "date of light" for the translucent golden color. This is the leading commercial crop in the US. Popular with growers because it is easy to work and can be handled with industrial equipment, including machine pitting (other varieties are too soft for the machine). Has a distinct flavor that is good with bran flakes, baked goods, or rolled with coconut. If you have only tried Deglet Noor and decided you don't like dates, you really should try other varieties. The taste is very different than other dates and not everyone likes them. They are also considered a dry date (as opposed to soft date) and contain sucrose, which the soft dates do not. They are relitivly resistant to root rot but fruit does not do well in humid climate. They require more heat than most to ripen. They will not ripen in Phoenix, but will in Coachella Valley and Death Valley. Originally come from Tunisia and Algeria.
Deglet Noor and Medjool make up more than 90% of the date crop in the US.
Thoory also from Algeria, it is a hard dry date. Often liked out of hand for a snack on a hike or late morning with coffee or tea. A little grown variety and a little hard to find as the few growers that have them will sell out before the next season. Very chewy, nutty flavor. Susceptible to root rot.
Zahidi is the leading variety of Iraq and Iran, where it is 40% of the entire date crop. Considered a common date, in the sense that it is the every day date that people eat lots of. It is also usually a low priced date. It is my favorite of the dry dates. Of the dates that have a little caramel taste, it seems to have the most, at least to my taste buds. Not too sweet, a little chewy. Fairly easy to grow and more resistant to root rot.

There are hundreds of named varieties grown in the world. Not hard to see why when every seedling produces such a wide variety of fruit. In the first half of the 20th century several people from the US traveled throughout the date producing regions of the Mid-East and North Africa and collected what they thought were the best varieties and brought them to the US. I myself grow over a dozen varieties and the flavors are widely varied, distinct, and well worth trying. Lots of great recipes too. Bon apatee

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 8:45AM
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a few days ago i picked some dates off a tree in Ontario,CA but none had seeds in the fruit. is there commercially grown dates that are seed less so there wont be so many sprouts? or do you guys think cold had to do with it? the seeds were ripe and am 99% sure the temp never dropped below 32*f. all winter. aside from this i live in the desert and theres a few big dates in my area not very many as there barely starting to get popular with the new business landscapings. some have the flowers but none have fruited yet that i noticed. could i expect viable seeds? are temp. here does get pretty cold low of 20*f this winter. i can pretty much expected that temp. every year as a low.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 8:34PM
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softmentor(z9/sunset13 CA desert)

I see this thread has come up again so I'll chime in again.
No, there are no seedless dates varieties. Most likely they were not pollinated. Un-pollinated dates will have a tiny undeveloped seed in the center of the fruit.
Since most palms around So Cal are transplants from Coachella Valley commercial date gardens, it is most likely a Deglet Noor, although there are some Medjool out there now in the last 10 years or so. Also, there are very, very few males around since only one in 50 palms grown in commercial gardens is a male. Thus, very few of the transplants are male. That is to say, there is very little date pollen out there to pollinate palms around the southland, unless you gather pollen and hand pollinate.
I'm not sure I understand the rest of your questions. You said the seeds were ripe.. did you mean the fruit was ripe? Even un-pollinated fruit will "ripen" or turn soft EVENTUALLY, but it will be much later than pollinated fruit. In medjools, perhaps 4 weeks later, in Deglet Noor perhaps 3 months later. In Ontario CA pollinated fruit will ripen late, usually after winter into the following year, and by then it has had a lot of rain on it and likely have mold. Anyway, I would not eat it! Yuck! Un-pollinated fruit will ripen, sort of, even later.
Palm will grow in Victorville, but again, the temps will not be hot enough to get well ripened fruit. Even the little bit of elevation in Palm Springs (600 ft) means that Palm Springs dates ripen much later than down in Indio and the very low end of the Coachella Valley. Victorville is considerably higher and cooler.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 2:56AM
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