Dubai: Dates are an essential item on many dinner tables across the UAE — particularly during the summer months. Asad Haque, a UAE resident for 30 years, shared his passion for farming and harvesting dates.
“Date Farming is a great experience, though a bit tough, and needs a lot of patience and hard work. The entire process takes six to eight months, with only one yield per year. An average date tree produces eight to 15 large bunches of the fruit, each weighing around 10-15kg. The tree begins to bear fruit by the time it is three to five years old and reaches its full production capacity by the time it is ten to 12 years old. A date palm tree can survive up to 150 years,” Haque, an Indian expatriate, explained.
Fifteen years ago, Haque had acquired eight palm trees since moving to his house in the Meadows, Dubai. The trees were around seven-feet tall at the time. But now they measure up to 25-30 feet. The harvest has allowed Haque to donate a large quantity of dates to charity.
“We pass by the labour camps and distribute a large number of packages. People are very appreciative as the dates we have are very sweet and juicy,” Haque said, adding that he encouraged everyone with a passion for farming to take up date farming. “Since my school days, I have been very passionate about nature and loved gardening flowers and cherished growing fruit and vegetables at our Bengaluru home. I am proud to be a part of the UAE’s identity and heritage and cherish date farming.”
How to farm dates
“Date palms are either male or female. No bird or insect is attracted to the flowers, so the female palm trees have to be hand-pollinated. The gardener has to collect the pollens from the male trees. At the top of the palm, the male flowers are hand-tied among the female flowers. Flowering and pollination take place between February and April, with majority of the harvest occurring in July, August and September,” Haque explains.
The second stage involves protecting the fruit with nets. Haque said: “Once the dates start forming, protective nets are cast around individual branches to protect them from the birds, though we deliberately leave a few branches out for the birds to nibble on since the garden area attracts a wide variety of birds daily.”
Palm trees require regular visits by a specialist gardener for pruning, medication, trimming the trees and finally harvesting the crop. Haque’s wife Reshma is a witness to the big task at their backyard. “Distribution is a mammoth task and we, as a family with home staff, arrange the packing and final distribution to spread the happiness across the UAE and to other countries as well.”