The date is the fruit of the date-palm; the name is derived from dactyl, so named from its shape. Botanically, it is called Phaenix dactylifera, and it grows plentifully in the dry regions of Asia and Africa. The trees have lofty trunks with terminal feathery foliage. The fruit is borne at the base of the leaves, each tree yielding from one hundred to three hundred pounds.
What rice is to the inhabitants of some portions of Asia, dates are to the people of Africa. It forms the chief article of food in nearly all Africa north of the equator, as well as in Arabia. The Arab not only eats them himself, but feeds them to his camel and his horse. The date-palm not only furnishes the fruit, but the tree supplies building material and clothing to the native. The sap of the tree is very sweet, and is often made into a sugar; but it is sometimes unwisely allowed to ferment, and is then called date wine.
The fruit of the date is very palatable and nutritious. In its dried state, as it is obtained in the market of this country, it contains a total nutritive value of sixty-seven per cent.; of this fifty-eight per cent, is sugar, and nine per cent. is albumen. On account of its sweetness, it is good to use with acid fruits, and it may also be used with good effect in sweetening cakes and puddings instead of sugar.