Judean dates

Photo Source: Dan Balilty for The New York Times

Ancient Judean Dates Grown From 2,000 Year Old Seed

Fifteen years ago, Dr. Sarah Sallon, who researches natural medicine, teamed up with Elaine Solowey, an expert on arid agriculture, to germinate ancient date seeds from the region of Judea in modern-day southern Israel. Both the Bible and the Quran venerated date palms as symbols of beauty, and from an archive in Jerusalem, Sallon learned that traditional healers considered dates to be beneficial for digestion, blood production, and memory. Dates were also thought to be an aphrodisiac. However, Judean date plantations died out by the Middle Ages. Fortunately, Dr. Sallon found a few date seeds while excavating Masada, the desert fortress near the Dead Sea where Jewish zealots, captured by the Romans in A.D. 73, famously died by their own hands instead of becoming slaves. Sallon took the seeds to Dr. Solowey, who operates the Center for Sustainable Agriculture at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura. In 2005, Dr. Solowey planted the seeds in quarantined pots with very few expectations. A couple weeks later, one shoot appeared, and since then the plant has grown into a sturdy tree outside of her office. After 15 years of patiently growing the date plant from 2,000 year old seeds, Sallon and Solowey recently celebrated their first fruit harvest at Kibbutz Ketura in southern Israel. Read more here at the New York Times.

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