The Indian Date Palm Phoenix Sylvestris grows in all sorts of inhospitable places like this vacant plot near my home. It is a handsome tree, beloved of bees and birds.The orange-red fruits are a great attraction for parrots and mynahs. Many years ago, it was a familiar sight to see tall old Sylvesters with a clay pot tied to the top. The clay pot was to collect the sweet sap of the tree, which is fermented and made into Palm wine. The government put a ban on making palm wine in an attempt to make villagers stop drinking, but the villagers started drinking brewery wine, filling the coffers of the liquor barons. The ban is lifted now.
The unfermented juice of the tree, called Neera , is a sweet, whitish liquid, full of vitamins. The fermented juice is the Palm wine or Toddy. It is drawn from the tree by making a nick on the tree and tying a pot to it. Sap will collect in the pot, which is removed in the morning.
In Bengal, the juice is boiled to make mollasses called Patali Gur, which is a great delicacy. The mollasses is very expensive , and is used to make special sweets like Payesh.
Palmyra, a cousin of the Sylvester, has large leaves. Sacred ancient texts of Hinduism and Buddhism were written on the leaves of this tree.