Harvesting Ancient Dates

Dr. Elaine Solowey and Arava Institute Executive Director Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed sampling the dates from this year’s harvest

This week, Arava Institute staff harvested three bunches of dates from our world-famous ancient date palms. This is the second year of harvesting fruit from this previously extinct tree, brought back to life by Dr. Elaine Solowey.

In 2005, Dr. Solowey germinated a 2,000-year-old date palm seed, which broke the world record and made international headlines. However, that tree (named Methuselah, for the oldest man in the Bible) grew to be male and therefore doesn’t bear fruit. Last year, Dr. Solowey announced that she had successfully germinated six more ancient seeds, two of which grew into female trees, named Judith and Hannah.

Hannah was planted in the ground (Judith is still in a pot in the greenhouse), pollinated by Methuselah, and last September, Arava Institute staff harvested her first 100 dates—marking an historic achievement that was featured in the New York Times, NPR, the BBC, and more.

This year’s harvest from Hannah produced almost 700 dates, which were pollinated by Methuselah and two other ancient date palms named Adam and Jonah. The dates’ flavor is similar to medjool, semi-dry with honey tones.

These unique dates are currently being kept cool in storage. Later this fall, the Arava Institute plans to offer a limited number of dates for sale at the Kibbutz Ketura guesthouse.

You can view our live recording of the harvest here.

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