The date palm was cultivated over 8,000 years ago in Babylonia. Wild relatives of the date are still found throughout the drier areas of the Old World. The palm is dioecious - having separate male and female trees, only the females producing the large bunches of fruit. Transfer of pollen from the male to the female flowers is effected by wind, but in commercial plantations pollination is carried out manually.
The fruit is the staple food of many people living in the semi-arid areas of the Arab world. A traditional diet of milk and dates is an excellent one, the protein and fats of the milk complementing the rich carbohydrate content of the dates. Besides being used as a source of food, the date palm also provides fibre, fuel and timber. The leaves are used ceremonially in connection with Palm Sunday.
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