story to find out more.
Ripening fruit of Deglet Noor, a commercial date
variety commonly grown in the United States, Egypt and other countries.
Click the image for more information about it.
A Bright Future for an Ancient Fruit
By Erin Peabody
July 11, 2006
Maybe it's their dried-out skins,
wrinkled from months spent in the sun. Or their lackluster brown hues, lost
among the bright reds, yellows and oranges of the produce aisle. Whatever it
is, dates aren't exactly flying off U.S. grocery store shelves.
Krueger, a scientist with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Riverside, Calif., thinks we should
take a cue from Middle Eastern cuisine and open our eyes, and stomachs, to
these dazzling little gems.
With the help of University of California (UC) colleagues, the ARS
horticulturalist recently uncovered new information about the date palm,
including findings on the trees origins, its current state of diversity
and how its impressive levels of antioxidants vary by cultivar.
Researchers have known for a while that dates are top-scorers in terms of
their phenolic compound content. Also found in red wine, phenolic compounds are
powerful antioxidants, capable of shielding our bodies delicate cellular
machinery from the everyday assault of harmful free radicals.
Krueger, who works at the ARS
Clonal Germplasm Repository for Citrus and Dates, and UC-Davis colleagues
ran antioxidant tests on six dates commonly grown in California. It turns out
that the Deglet Noor date--the kind most likely to be eaten by Americans--was
their best performer.
Krueger, with Egyptian researcher Ashraf El-Assar and UC-Riverside
researchers led by Thomas Chao, recently completed an extensive evaluation of
the genetic diversity of date palms in Egypt. Egypt is the worlds largest
supplier of dates, having grown them since about 3200 B.C.
The scientists found that while theres much diversity among Egyptian
date palms, the countrys date industry may want to round out its
cultivated date groves with other, genetically different cultivars. Plant
diversification guards against potential disease threats and habitat loss.
This research has important implications for the future of the date
industry--and date palm diversity--which is centered in the Middle East.
more about the research in the July 2006 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agricultures chief scientific research agency.