When Sarah Hallon thought of planting the seeds of a 2,000-year-old date palm found in an ancient Roman-era fortress near the Dead Seagot a grim response.
“The botanical archaeologists told me ‘you are completely crazy, it will never work’“, recalled the 72-year-old Anglo-Israeli expert in natural medicine.
But Sallon’s idea that the dry environment of the Dead Sea would allow the seeds of the strong massada flourish, turned out to be correct.
With a lot of patience and care, she and his partner Elaine Solowey managed to grow date palms with seeds dating back to Kingdom of Judeaemerged in the XI century BC
The kingdom was “known for the quality and quantity of its dates”, and they were praised for their “large size, their sweet taste (…) and their medicinal properties”, write the two in an article for the scientific magazine.
Reviving this heirloom variety with sustainable agriculture specialist Solowey was not only a groundbreaking project, but offered “a glimmer of hope” for a planet fighting the climate crisis and the mass disappearance of species, Sallon said.
“Maybe these amazing species that are all around us are not going to disappear,” he said, noting this “nature has hidden tricks”.
“You can leave the seeds dormant for thousands of years, we think they’re extinct and boom! A golden pair of hands, like Elaine’s, is enough. to bring them back to life“, he has declared.
Before trying to revive the date palm, Sallon read a few 500 year old lotus flower seeds which had sprouted.
In 2004 he asked the Bar Ilan University of Israel access to some of his preserved date seeds found in the 1960s under the rubble of Masada, a Herodian-era Jewish fort that was stormed by Roman troops in the 1st century. Although he was described as “crazy” by Bar Ilan botanical archaeologists, Sallon showed them evidence of ancient seeds germinating at other sites.
With this and “much annoyance”, it has five suits and then looked for Solowey at Kibbutz Ketura, near Israel’s border with Jordan. Solowey recalled that Sallon sent him the ancient seeds with a request to try to germinate them.
“I said, ‘how old are they?’ and she replied ‘2000 years'”. Solowey assured him it would be impossible to germinate them, but Sallon insisted that he try. After several months of deliberation, Solowey used an enzyme-based fertilizer. He tried to germinate three of the seeds in his greenhouse, but… for weeks he saw no signs of life.
But one day in March 2005, small cracks opened in the earth where he planted a seed, a sign that the roots were taking hold. Of the three seeds, one blossomed and He called it “Methuselah” from the biblical figure known for his longevity.
But Methuselah was a male plant and bore no fruit. Sallon then went looking for more seeds in the hope of obtaining a female plant, and last year, after a long wait, I have a palm tree named “Hannah” which produced about 100 dates in that crop.
This year has had a much bigger harvest, with 800 datesslightly dry but with a delicate honey flavour.
His team says they will be able to sell samples soon, and they hope so “Judit”, a sister of Hannah planted this month, they also produce more dates.
Mary Ortiz is a seasoned journalist with a passion for world events. As a writer for News Rebeat, she brings a fresh perspective to the latest global happenings and provides in-depth coverage that offers a deeper understanding of the world around us.