The Date Palm was cultivated over five thousand years ago and is often referred to as the “tree of life” as very part can be used to make what is needed from food stuffs to rope and baskets. The fruit, the date itself, is called the breadof the desert as it has helped sustain nomadic tribes that roam the Middle Eastern deserts (Source: www.invista.com/health/foods/fruits/dates.htm ). Each tree can grow over one hundred feet tall and on average can produce over a hundred pounds of fruit each year.
According the Family Nutrition Online (www.familynutritiononline.com), dates are a great source of fiber. That is well known, but dates also offer other benefits to be included in a healthy diet. Those benefits include: (1) carbohydrates which offer a powerhouse of energy; (2) natural sugars such as fructose, glucose and sucrose which offer a quick burst of energy; (3) potassium which helps maintain muscle contractions [such as your heart muscles] and healthy nervous system as well as balance one’s metabolism; (4) vitamins such a B-complex vitamins, thiamin and riboflavin; (5) magnesium which helps with bone development.
When purchasing fresh dates, it is important to keep in mind a few simple things to help ensure you purchase a quality date. Those tips include: (a) look for even coloring and appears to be fleshy. If the date is dried and withered looking, the date had neither the taste or the nutritional value it once had; (b) make sure that there are no hard sugar crystal formations on the skin of the fruit
With over a hundred different varieties of dates, how does one choose which date is for them? The folks at Seaview Sales (www.seaviewsales.com/varieties1.htm), offer these six varieties to taste and enjoy:
- Deglet Noor – this date is semi-dry and comes from Algeria. It has a light sweet taste and its coloring ranges from a light red to amber or straw (light sandy brown).
- Halawy – this date comes from Iraq and it a soft thick fleshed fruit that is caramel sweet. The fruit starts off yellow but will deepen to a golden brown when fully ripe.
- Khadrawy – this date comes from Iraq and takes well to curing. It has a caramel texture and sweetness. When the date is fresh, it is the color of amber and when the date is cure, the color changes to deep reddish brown.
- Zahidi – this is a semi-dry date with a high level of sugar. It is often used to make diced dates and date sugar products. The texture is crunchy and it has a fibrous flesh.
- Thoory – often called the “bread date”, it is the driest form of fresh dates. It has a firm skin and is less sticky than the other various. It is also a very chewy fleshed fruit and common among nomadic tribes of the Middle East.
- Medjool – Often referred to as the “Cadillac” of dates and prized just as highly. This date offers a soft tender skin despite its large size and is the sweetest due to its high natural sugar content. Its coloring ranges from a dark brown to a nearly black color when fully ripe.