What are Dates?
Dates are the fruits of Date Palms. It is a drupe. Dates are usually an oblong brown berry like fruit. Dates have long been an important food in desert regions, and are the source of syrup, alcohol, vinegar, and a strong liquor. It is crunchy, firm and juicy with relatively low astringency. It has a short shelf life.
Dates are oval-cylindrical, 3–7 cm long, and 2–3 cm diameter. Dates when unripe are either bright red to bright yellow in color, depending on variety. It contain a single seed about 2–2.5 cm long and 6–8 mm thick.
Dates grow in clusters below the fronds on a date palm tree. A single cluster can hold 600 to 1,700 dates. Date palms can grow as tall as 100 feet and stay in production for over 60 years. The fronds of the date palm are featherlike and 10 to 20 feet long.
Fruit styles are usually graded into 3 groups.
Soft – soft flesh, high moisture, low sugar content – ‘Barhee’, ‘Halawy’, ‘Khadrawy’, ‘Medjool’
Semi-dry – firm flesh, low moisture, high sugar content – ‘Dayri’, ‘Deglet Noor’, ‘Zahidi’
Dry – dry flesh, very low moisture, high sugar content – ‘Thoory’.
History of Dates Consumption
Dates are known to have originated around the Persian Gulf, and have been cultivated since ancient times in Mesopotamia as also in prehistoric Egypt, possibly as early as 6000 BC. There is archaeological evidence of date cultivation in eastern Arabia in 4,000 BC. And since then dates have been the staple food of the people in the Middle Eastern region. According to the available evidence dates were spread around North Africa and Spain by the Arabs. Spaniards introduced dates to Mexico and California.
The date palm is mentioned in the bible as the “tree of life,” and the word “date” comes from the Greek “daktulos,” which means “finger.” Dates grow in large bunches which can weigh as much as 40 pounds, and large trees will yield more than 1,000 dates each year.
Nutritional Value of Dates
Dates are loaded with the energy one needs every day – to win a marathon race or get you through a tough day. With only 24 calories per date (248 per 100 gram serving), dates are high in dietary fiber, low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and contain more potassium than bananas! Very few other fruits offer this healthful combination. Dietitians recommend that one must consume two to four servings of fruit a day for the important fiber, vitamins, and minerals they supply.
Store opened packages of dates in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped to keep the fruit from drying out. The dates available in the super markets are partly dried; they retain sufficient moisture to keep them soft and tasty. Properly stored dates will stay fresh for several weeks.
To slice dates neatly, chill them in the refrigerator or freezer for an hour. The colder they are, the easier it will be to slice them. If you’re adding dates to a cake or bread batter, coat them first with flour to keep them from dropping through the batter.
Baked Pork Chops And Date Stuffing
- 6 rib or loin pork chops
- Vegetable oil
- 6 tbsp. melted butter
- 2/3 c. minced onion
- 1/2 c. celery
- 4 c. day-old bread crumbs
- 1 1/2 c. chopped dates or raisins
- 1 c. chopped, peeled tart apples
Brown chops well on both sides in hot oil in large skillet. Discard most of fat from skillet, keeping brown particles in bottom. Sprinkle on both sides with salt and pepper.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in skillet; add onions and celery; saute until tender. Add next 3 ingredients; toss with remaining butter until well mixed. Arrange chops on top. Bake, covered, in preheated moderate oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 30 minutes longer. Makes 6 servings of 1 chop and 2/3 cup stuffing.