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November 21, 2013 1:34 pm

Foodies Loving Medjool Dates From Israel, Crop Thrives With Irrigation System

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avatar by Joshua Levitt

Israeli Medjool dates. Photo: Screenshot /

Israeli Medjool dates. Photo: Screenshot /

Global foodies are clamoring for Israel’s Medjool dates, which are thriving because of intense irrigation made possible by new water treatment facilities, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday.

Bloomberg said that Israel’s success in the date business is also due to the branding effort behind the Medjool, especially by Hadiklaim, the Israeli date growers’ cooperative, positioning it “as an exotic delicacy.”

Bloomberg cited Mitch Berliner, who runs two farmers markets near Washington, D.C., as saying, “If there was one date variety that the average person would ask for by name it would be the Medjool.”

Medjool means “unknown” in Arabic, as it was one of several varieties of date palm, and the only one without a name, originally brought to California from Morocco as a blight hit the crop there in the 1950s.

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Medjool dates account for 1% of the 7.9 million ton global date market, which is led by Egypt and Iran, but it is the main varietal among the 32,000 tons of dates grown in Israel annually.

Among the 14,500 tons of dates Israel exported last year, about 10,000 were Medjools, agriculture officials told Bloomberg. Overall, the volume of Israel’s date exports jumped 23 percent last year to 247 million shekels ($70 million), reaching 27 countries across five continents. The crop has also become a frequent target of campaigns to boycott the Jewish state.

The growth in production is due to innovation in irrigation and creating new water sources, beginning with the Netafim Irrigation Co.’s development of a drip irrigation system 50 years ago, Larry Duane Geohring, an agricultural researcher at Cornell University, told Bloomberg.

“Israel is a leader in water technologies, recycling and conservation,” said Geohring. The United Nations has identified Israel as a leader in wastewater recycling. Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, says Israel recycles 75% of its wastewater, followed by Spain, at just 12%.

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