Almost all dates are imported to Malta from the Middle East. Four years ago, however, David Debono took the initiative to start cultivating dates. He said that contrary to what many might think, Malta’s climate is ideal for this sweet, healthy fruit. Television Malta this morning went to watch the cutting of dates from the palm trees located at Blata l-Bajda.
On Monday morning, passersby were met by an unusual sight on the main road of Blata l-Bajda. Using ropes, two climbers quickly climbed up the trees which are in the middle of the road and began cutting the bunches of dates with a sickle, and throwing them to the ground. The dates were then collected by primary school children from St Francis School in Cospicua who placed them in crates.
David Debono said that a healthy tree can yield more than 300 kilos of dates. He said that in Malta there are at least ten varieties of this sweet fruit.
“There are good varieties which were planted by the authorities which are located in gardens and in various places there are more than 50 very good large trees. For example, in this area alone there are nine which are known as żalul. This variety in Egypt is consumed fresh like one eats apples.”
According to Mr Debono, the climate in Malta is excellent for dates, and in fact the Egyptians who advised him to start cultivatating dates told him that the taste of dates grown in Malta is better than those grown in Egypt.
“I have been to Egypt several times and have always been interested in why Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria, which have climates very similar to ours, cultivate dates, while we did not. We tried this experiment for years ago and it was a positive one.”
He added that fresh dates can keep you feeling full for a long time.
“They say that the Arabs, for example, a taxi driver for breakfast buys six fresh dates known as belah which keep him satisfied until he goes home in the evening for dinner. We have never had the opportunity to eat dates straight from a tree. We have always bought them from a packet and God knows when they would have been picked.”
He added that apart from eating them on their own, dates are also a main ingredient in certain cakes and of course, our renowned imqaret.