A Date to Remember

(page 3)

Tozeur and the other traditional oases like it have survived for over two thousand years by tapping shallow underground water supplies, which are replenished annually by rains in the mountains. But with the appearance of tourist hotels, water demand is such that deep fossil water is now being extracted (10,000 years old, and it tastes it), and this will eventually run out.

There are also new, efficient date palm plantations appearing in the region, which, with less dense planting, modern cultivation methods, and heavy reliance on deep wells, achieve four times the yield. So although Tozeur has survived since antiquity and seems likely to remain relatively untouched by the modern world for a while yet, its time will eventually be up.

Are date palms worth growing by European palm enthusiasts? Young specimens may look a little unexciting, but I was very taken by the handsome blue cultivars spotted at the Gros Pin nursery in the south of France during the EPS/Fous 1994 summer jaunt. It is even possible that Phoenix dactylifera could be grown outdoors here if kept dry in winter. After all, in its natural habitat, the date palm almost certainly experiences lower minimum temperatures than any other species of Phoenix.

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