Ajwa Dates: “The Miracle Fruit” History & Production

Ajwa is a dark color, chewy, and has strong texture  that grows in the palm trees of Saudi Arabia. Because of its many remarkable health benefits, it’s among the top favorite dates by Muslims around the world.

Still, most people are unaware of the rich history of Ajwa dates.

In this article, I’ll share some interesting facts about its history and production for date lovers around the world!

How old are Ajwa dates?

Some say that Ajwa dates have been around for more than 50 million years. Unbelievable, right?

Historians are yet to pinpoint the exact origination place of Ajwa dates but many believe the initial production began somewhere in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persian Gulf, or India.

 

How did Ajwa dates travel the world?

Archeologists discovered signs of Ajwa dates cultivation in Egypt, claiming they were about 7000 to 8000 years old.

Later, some plants were found in Greece as well. Ancient Romans are thought to have cultivated palm trees to adorn their gardens with this sweet fruit.

Additionally, it’s believed early Hebrews brewed wine, vinegar and used Ajwa in desserts. The palm tree bark is thought to have been crafted into utensils, while the date pits might have been fed to livestock for nutritional boost.

Marco Polo is said to have taken the seeds of the date palm tree to Italy. From there, it quickly spread in other European countries. Although experts believe the climate of Italy might not have been suitable for its mass production.

It is said that Alexander the Great brought Ajwa dates seeds to Pakistan and the rest of the Middle East while visiting various countries during wars. Many regions in Pakistan including Harrapa and Indus Valley now flaunt huge Ajwa dates farms.

During the 1700s, Spanish conquerors and settlers brought Ajwa dates pits by way of Mexico to California, in the US. Traders also spread the seeds to African countries, which is now among the top producers of Ajwa.

Ajwa Dates History

Which country is the largest producer of Ajwa dates?

Saudi Arabia is one of the top Ajwa producing countries .With time, several others such as Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Oman, and UAE also started growing 100,000+ tonnes of dates each year.

A major chunk of Ajwa date farms in Saudia is located within the four walls of Haram and near Quba mosque. Other harvesters prefer planting them on the outskirts of cities.

Vendors then sell these dates across the kingdom and around the globe. Hajj and Umrah pilgrims from far and wide buy Ajwa dates in bulk to gift them to their loved ones back home, because of their amazing healing powers.

How are Ajwa dates grown?

Ajwa dates grow on ancient palm trees, primarily in Saudi Arabia. Each tree stands about 100 feet tall and can grow 12 inches each year. One Ajwa date palm tree yields around 150 pounds of produce annually.

Ajwa palm trees have around 100+ leaves, each approximately 6 meters long.

It takes a new date palm tree at least 8 years to bear fruits and an additional 10 years to start producing for commercial trade.

No wonder it’s an expensive fruit!

Luan de Oliveira Silva on Unsplash

Latest research to boost Ajwa dates production

According to a 2019 study, about 100 million Ajwa palm trees are planted globally with over 60 million trees in the Middle East alone. Saudi Arabia grows over 15000 tonnes of dates every year, making it a core part of the country’s agroeconomic industry.

Currently, a research professor from King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) is in the process of developing a genomic sequence to enhance worldwide Ajwa production. They aim to quicken this plant’s growth in arid climates and make them resistant to pests.

What’s the best season to grow Ajwa?

Ajwa dates yield best during hot dry months — particularly from May to October. Their production peaks during July, August, and autumn.

Post-harvest, many vendors store Ajwa dates for long periods to sell during winters or the holy month of Ramadhan when these dates are largely consumed in almost every home. They are then sold throughout the year under sunlight to keep them afresh.

However, too cold or hot temperatures can destroy their original flavour and nutritional content. This is often a key problem while buying and selling Ajwa dates online.

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