(page 3)

During the summer, night temperatures are high and sap harvested ferments by morning, rendering the product fit only as an alcoholic drink. The sap during summer is also not as sweet. Therefore, the sap from Phoenix sylvestris trees is tapped only during winter, from around November until late February. The sap during this cold season is sweetest and does not ferment quickly due to the mild climate.

There is no organized Phoenix sylvestris farm or plantation. The seeds that the plants bear drop down and germinate, where goats like to nibble them. Some seeds settle in the thickets that surround the base of mature trees, where the goats cannot reach them, and thus can continue to grow. These become future providers of sap. Anand said he just gets a “feel” when a tree is mature enough for first harvest. We saw trees with a clear stem of about 6 ft. that had two or three notches on the trunk indicating they had been harvested over the last couple of years. The whole process of harvesting sap from Phoenix sylvestris is told in eloquent detail in the book The Palms of British India and Ceylon by E. B. Blatter, published in 1926 (?). The book is a compilation of papers published in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society by the author during the period 1910 to 1918. I would like to quote a portion from the book:

“When the tree is ripe the process of tapping begins, and it is continued each year thereafter. There are in the Date-palm two series or stories as it were, of leaves; the crown leaves, which rise straight out from the top of the trunk; being so to speak, a continuation of it; and lateral leaves, which spring out of the side of the top part of the trunk. When the rainy season has completely passed, and there is no further fear of rain, the cultivator cuts off the lateral leaves for one half of the circumference, and thus leaves bare a surface measuring about 10 or 12 inches each way. This surface is at first a brilliant white, but becomes by exposure quite brown, and puts on the appearance of coarse matting. The surface thus laid bare is not the woody fiber of the tree, but is a bark formed of many thin layers, and it is these layers which thus change their colour and texture.

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