The palm trees in the Sultanate of Oman are becoming heavy with ripe dates signalling that the harvest season for the juicy delicious fruits is all set to begin.
This is the period of the season when Omanis share the very first yields of the fruits with their families before they are sent to the markets. Sweet fresh dates come in different colours, red and yellow.
Normally, the traditional date harvest season, called ‘Jidad’ or ‘Al Tabseel’, starts in June and continues until September, depending on the type of palm tree and the method of harvesting.
“The fruits are becoming ripe for harvest. It is because of the type of the palm trees that we grow in our areas which mature quickly”, said Syed al Hadhrami in Sur.
Speaking to the Observer over phone from Jaalan Bani Bu Hassan, he said, “due to the rising heat, the dates have started ripening from the middle of this month. The harvest will get into full swing in a few days”.
Although these palm fruits are a popular food across the Gulf region, in the Sultanate of Oman they hold a place of honour in the national culture and cuisine.
Date farming assumes great economic and social significance as it is the primary agricultural crop in Oman, and it constitutes about 80 per cent of all fruit crops produced and around 50 per cent of the total agricultural area in the country.
According to Syed, each family in his village has date trees. “I have three farms and for two days we harvest around 200 palm trees”, he said.
Every part of the tree is put to use. Fronds are lashed together to make sun shades and fences. Leaflets are braided into baskets, mats, date sacks and fans. Palm fiber is turned into rope and twine. Trunks of old trees become ceiling rafters, fuel for the fire and even furniture.
Syed said that the date harvest stretches over three to four months and there are several different types of dates,
In each governorate of the country the harvesting and the associated procurement of dates have traditional variations. In North Al Sharqiyah Governorate, South Al Batinah and South Al Sharqiyah governorates it is ‘Tabseel’ season of ‘Al Mabsali’ and other varieties of dates, which is an economic event rooted in social tradition.
“Palm harvesting is a very important season for us. It used to create a festival atmosphere. But many young people have left the farms behind in search of jobs in the city. The farms now often rely on migrant workers for everyday tasks”, he said.
Al Khalas is believed to be of the highest quality, according to experts. With 75 per cent of the cultivated land dedicated to date farming, the fruit is produced almost in all parts of the country, with Nizwa and Al Suwaiq being the focal centres along-with the various wilayats of the Sharqiyah governorates.
The season ends in late summer. However, this is not the end of the date’s story. Dates can be stored, in different forms, for around two years as their high sugar content prevents decay.