Dethorning is the process of removing the thorns (spines) off the palm fronds. The dethorning process is essential in providing a safe work environment in managing the date palm trees during the other stages in the growing process, like pollinating and thinning. Imagine working in one of these palm trees with those long spines! That is why dethorning is a very important activity done prior to harvest.
The Process of Dethorning
At the beginning of every harvest cycle during the first months of the year, our farmers (also called “Palmeros”) start to dethorn the date palm trees. Spines are removed from each side of the palm frond, one side first then the other, always starting from the bottom and down to the end of the frond. The process to dethorn each palm tree takes about 5 to 10 minutes to be completed. Date palm trees can grow 10 to 26 new palm fronds every year and are located at the top center of the palm tree.
Thorn3 to 5 Inches Long
To remove these spines, our palmeros use knives; usually a long sharp curved blade with a wooden handle. These tools are mostly brought from Zacatecas, Mexico, The knives from Mexico are more lightweight than the ones created in the USA making it easier for the palmeros to maneuver while cutting the thorns.
The palmeros use two different knives: one is slightly longer and used to cut unwanted palm fronds. The palmero makes a cut in the tail end of the frond, inserts the pointy end of the knife just above the cut, then pulls on the frond to detach and throw to the ground. The other shorter knife is used to dethorn the spines on the palms. It is important for the palmeros to carry sharp knives.
Date palm trees can reach more than 40ft. tall. To go up, farmers use a special ladder. The palmeros also sometimes use mechanical lifts. This ladder has a different top end. It has two metal parts closing in between the two with the end open so they can anchor on one of the palm fronds and lock it in.
DATE PALM TREE FACTS
Out of the 16+ date varieties our farm grows, palmeros have found the Golden Zahidi date to be the least tedious to dethorn as it has fewer thorns.