x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

In search of the best date

Dates are judged on many different criteria, including size, weight and taste.

LIWA // The creation of an ideal date relies on many different criteria, including size, weight, uniformity and taste.

Different varieties have various stages of ripeness, which are also taken into account.

The half-ripened (rutab) stage, which takes three months to develop, and the fully-ripened (tamar) stage, which takes five months, were the main stages of development judged at the Liwa Date Festival last week. On the first day of the festival, judges looked at half-ripened dates from the Al Dabbas category.

"We are looking for dates to be very tasty," said Dr Hasan Shabana, a date palm expert at the Arab Organisation for Agricultural Development, and one of the ten judges. "The rutab stage is the most popular in the UAE, more so than tamar because it's crispier."

The half-ripened Al Dabbas date has many characteristics that make it the ideal date.

"It's very sweet, it's healthy and it has lots of minerals," said Dr Shabana. "The date must be free from diseases, it should be clean and have a shiny colour. The heavier and the larger the date, the better."

The top weight for 50 dates this year was 750 grams. "And this is considered to be small," said Dr Samir Al Shakir, a judge at the festival and a consultant at the Palm and Dates Global Technology at the Phoenix International Bureau in Al Ain.

"Every variety differs but our target is to improve the quality of the date via its size and weight."

Both judges visited 15 shortlisted farmers in Liwa who presented the best dates at the festival.