Amazing Date palms grown from 2,000 year old seeds!

Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet TM

Copyright all rights reserved

The indomitable and irrepressible Travelling Gourmet is astonished by…

MAGICAL Date palms grown from very old seeds…in Israel.

Seven date palm trees have been grown from 2000-year-old seeds that were found in the Judean desert near Jerusalem.

Scientists grow date palm plants from 2,000-year-old seeds

The seeds – the oldest ever germinated – were among hundreds discovered in caves and in an ancient palace built by King Herod the Great in the 1st century BC! They were found at the same site as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Sarah Sallon at the Louis L Borick Natural Medicine Research Center in Jerusalem and her colleagues previously grew a single date palm tree (Phoenix dactylifera) from one of the seeds. The team has now managed to grow a further six.

The ancient seeds were prepared by soaking them in water, adding hormones that encourage germination and rooting, then planting them in soil in a quarantined area.

The team used radiocarbon dating to reveal the seven seeds were all around 2000 years old. Genetic analysis showed that several of them came from female date palms that were pollinated by male palms from different areas. This hints that the ancient Judean people who lived in the area at the time and cultivated the trees used sophisticated plant breeding techniques.

Sweet and juicy

Historical accounts of the dates that grew from the palms in this region describe their large size, sweetness and medicinal properties. The Roman scribe Pliny the Elder, for example, wrote that their “outstanding property is the unctuous juice which they exude and an extremely sweet sort of wine-flavour like that of honey”. Unlike Egyptian dates, they could be stored for a long time, meaning they could be exported throughout the Roman Empire.

Are Dates Good For You? Here's What You Should Know. | HuffPost Life

Sallon and her colleagues found that the seeds of ancient Judean dates are larger than modern varieties, which is often indicative of bigger fruit. They now hope to recreate the ancient fruit by pollinating females with males.

“It won’t be the typical Judean date, because dates that were grown at that time – just like dates that are grown today – are not grown from seeds that somebody puts in the earth,” said Dr Sarah Sallon, director of the Louis Borick Natural Medicine Research Centre at the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem. “They are grown from clones from very high-producing females.”

Date palms are thought to have first been cultivated in Arabia and Mesopotamia (now Iraq) more than 6,000 years ago and were once widespread in ancient Judea, a region of the Levant. As well as being an important item of food, said Sallon, they were used to treat various medical conditions, including depression and poor memory. “Dates were an enormous export from Judea and they were famous,” she said.

Judea’s date palm crops started to die out after the region’s wars with Rome in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Sallon believes the hot, dry conditions of the Judean desert probably helped to preserve the leftover seeds for so long.

Previously, the world’s oldest germinated seed was a 1300-year-old Chinese lotus seed recovered from a dried lake bed in China. In 2012, researchers in Russia grew a flower from 30,000-year-old fruit tissue recovered from frozen sediment in Siberia.

Out of 32 other excavated seeds, six sprouted, and two are female. One, named Hannah, bore 111 dates. The team at the Arava Institute tasted some, and sent the rest away for research.

And how do Hannah’s dates taste?

“Lovely,” says Sarah Sallon of the Louis L Borick Natural Medicine Research Center in Jerusalem, “I find Medjoul dates too sticky sweet. Hannah’s are blander and drier, with a honey aftertaste that makes me think of the land of milk and honey.”

The date experts at Kibbutz Keturah say they taste like the Zahidi species of Iraqi dates. That makes sense, as Hannah is genetically related to a species that grew in Babylon — present-day Iraq.

“Domesticating the date palm for cultivation started around 6,000 years ago in Babylon and in the Arabian Peninsula,” Sallon explains.

ancient-dates-revived

Journal reference: Science AdvancesDOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax0384

About thetravellinggourmet

As a renowned Travel, Food & Wine Writer he has travelled the world in a keen & indomitable pursuit of exotic delicacies & fine wines. His articles have been published in over 20 prestigious publications, both local & international. Dr. Lim has toured and trained in Wine Evaluation & Oenology in most of the world's top wine producing areas from France to Australia. The Travelling Gourmet says, "Gastronomy has no frontier. These are the gastronomic voyages of The Travelling Gourmet. My unending mission. To explore strange new cuisines, to seek out new wines and new culinary experiences, to boldly go where no gourmet has gone before...." Have pen, will travel. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any other information storage & retrieval system, without permission from Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet and/or MSN. Material may be works of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents may be true but may also be products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance whatsoever to actual person or persons, either dead or living, events, or locales may be entirely and purely coincidental and unintentional. No part of this website may be used to villify others or for criminal purposes. Interests: Travel, Food, Wines, Cooking, Wine Appreciation, Parachuting, Languages, Music, Reading, Swimming, Hunting, Ballet, Fencing, Archery, Anthropology and more... The Travelling Gourmet is a copyrighted trademark. All rights and photos reserved. No part may be reproduced without permission.
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