From palm to packaged product
The Seasonal Process of the Harvesting of Dates About Our Farm
Our high-quality dates originate from our farm which has existed since 1950 in al-Qasim, Saudi Arabia. We have over 28’000 palm tress and an ideal climate for crop cultivation. Around 70% of our dates are Sukari dates and the other 30% consists of Wannan, Barhi, and Um Kabar dates.
We pick, grade, package, and store our own dates. In addition we have developed our own picking, grading, and storage standards. This process assures quality and premium value.
The ripening season of the dates begin in August and finishes at the end of September. During these two months, our pickers are able to harvest the dates during the best stage when they are ripest. The dates are then transferred to our factory which is based on the farm campus as well. For first 24 hours, the dates stay in a cold room. This is where the process of grading begins in terms of size and softness. Then we pack them in different packages. Finally, we store them at -18 degrees Celsius.
Our process includes hygienic harvesting, cooling, grading and cleaning, and then freezing. The dates are transported by boat at -18 degrees Celsius, followed by a quality check in Switzerland, and are then stored at -18 degrees Celsius. They are finally distributed at 4-7 degrees Celsius. Food safety and hygiene are very important to us; and therefore, we perform technical tests on a regular basis.
Dates Pollination Process
Date palm trees are both male and female, which means they are dioecious. During the pollination, the process begins when male palm trees reach maturity and begin to sprout yellow flowers which secrete pollen. After the pollen from the males are transferred to the female palms, the flowers of the female palms begin to produce dates. Our date palms are able to pollinate naturally by wind, bees, and other insects; however, we use a manual process to optimize the overall quality of the dates.
During early spring, the spathes, or flower stalks emerge from the axel of the leaves. Upon the opening of the spathe, the male inflorescence appears. This is the period that ensures the male palms are ready to begin the harvesting process. Our farmers begin to harvest the male flowers within 24 hours of when the spathe splits open to avoid loss of pollen. We carefully chose the best male trees for the process. Ultimately, the entire procedure takes around six months. Because our palms are pollinated by hand, the trees must be monitored every day. The fruit begins to produce buds around April or May. During this period, the dates are round, firm, and bright green. Our farmers will begin to separate the strands which ensures each date bud is able to breathe and grow to its full potential.
Climate and Irrigation
If you are curious as to why dates are grown in the desert, you may want to consider the climate in which dates are grown. Palm trees cannot thrive in wet or cold climates; therefore, the desert is most suitable as it’s very dry and hot. Rainfall is limited to less than 3 inches per year, and summer temperatures in Saudi deserts are normally around 40 degrees Celsius.
Specific borders must be built around the root of the trees in order to cultivate water at the base. This border also forbids any weeds or grass from growing near the palm which would affect the well-being of the tree. Each tree requires around 60,000 gallons of water per year but only at the base of the tree. If the water or rainfall touches the flowers or spathes, it will obstruct the cultivation process.
The harvest begins in July and ends in September. Saudi Arabia hosts around 20% and the highest number of palm trees in the world. Our farm has over 28 thousand palms, and measures over 64 million square meters. Each palm is carefully monitored and strategically harvested. When a palm tree is first planted, it does not begin to produce fruit until its fifth year of its life.
In the beginning of July, the dates begin to ripen. However, other dates do not begin to ripen until August and sometimes September. This is a strategic process which requires careful examination of the dates. Since our dates are hand picked, the harvesters carefully choose only the ripest dates during the harvest. The second harvest begins after two weeks. Since too much sun can cause the dates to become too dry, the “peak period” is very important and challenging. Appearance is one of the main factors which distinguishes between Grade A and B quality. Our brand ensures Grade A quality.
We have around 60 laborers, and each tree takes around thirty minutes in each round to individually harvest. Our farmers wear elastic belts and attach themselves to the palms. The dates are collected and stored at 5 degrees Celsius for 24 hours. This is what we refer to as the cooling process. The next day, the grading process occurs. Dates are graded and chosen based on what we refer to as CS3 – color, softness, shape, and size. After, the dates which have made it to this point will be cleaned with an advanced machine which naturally cleanses the dates without altering the appearance. This process ensures the overall quality and cleanliness we take such pride in.