Date Fruit, first cultivated in ancient times, are a modern nutritional marvel
Perhaps you have attended a party or gala event, and while the trays of hors d’oeurves are being passed around, you are offered a date.
No, you are not being invited for dinner and movie. You are being offered a delicious delicacy, a date fruit, one of the oldest cultivated fruit crops, first grown thousands of years ago on the shores of the Persian Gulf.
What are date fruit? Dates are actually the fruit product of the date palm, a tree native to the Middle East and Africa. Date palms grow thick clusters of date fruits below their fronds. Unripe date fruits are green in color, and but they slowly turn yellow-orange as they mature. Fully ripe dates are a rich brown color with thick, glossy, sticky skin. The center of the sweet date flesh contains a small pit.
What are date fruit primarily used for? While dates can be eaten whole fresh, or dried, they are typically included in traditional Middle Eastern and Mediterranean desserts and other recipes. Dates can be stuffed with nuts, lemon or orange peel, or other savory fillings. Dates are frequently added to baked goods such as breads, cakes and pastries or used in puddings and yogurts, or dates may be ground into a paste used to decorate candies and desserts. Dried dates are a popular and healthy snack.
Varieties of date fruit include the rare Black Sphinx date, along with more common Noor and Medjool date varieties. Additional varieties include Barhi, Barakawi, Golden Princess, Khalas, Halawy, Hilali, and Khadrawy
What are date fruit nutritional properties? Dates are an excellent source of nutrition, as they are high in vitamins, minerals and protein. Dates contain potassium, fiber, calcium, folic acid, phosphorus, iron, and magnesium. In addition, dates are rich in Vitamins A, A1, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 and C.
Dates are also considered nutritious because they are cholesterol free, fat free and sodium free.
Although dates are quite sweet, and often described as having a honey-like flavor, or referred to as “nature’s candy,” they actually have a minimal caloric amount. The average Medjool date only contains 23 calories.
Dates are considered to be beneficial in balancing the digestive system and preventing certain types of cancer such as abdominal cancer and intestinal cancer. Dates are also a highly recommended food for pregnant or nursing women. This is because dates contain a substance called oxytocin, a chemical naturally secreted by the pituitary gland which strengthens the muscles of the uterus and helps produce milk for nursing mothers.
The next time you are craving a sweet snack, consider picking up a bag of dried dates, found from specialty online retail stores, and often in health food stores and high-end grocery stores. Research recipes with dates, and consult your specialty grocery for local sources or distributors of fresh dates.
Date lovers are pleased to know that these delicious date fruits, first cultivated as early as 6000 BC, and revered by ancient cultures as an energizing tonic with medicinal properties, are today endorsed by nutritionists, medical experts and organizations such as the American Cancer Society.