Dates, the energy-rich, and incredibly sweet fruits of the date palm are found in abundance across tropical regions all over the world. The history, benefits, and culinary uses of dates are covered briefly in this article.
What are Dates?
A date resembles the tip of a finger, and interestingly, the term “date” originates from the Greek word “daktylos” which also means “finger”. The date is a single-seeded berry with an oblong shape that varies greatly in shape, size, color, and texture depending on the species. When completely developed, they are 3 to 7 cm (1.2 to 2.8 in) long and 2 to 3 cm (0.8 to 1.18 in) wide, with a vibrant reddish-brown to bright yellow color depending on the type.
Dates are commonly grown in Northern Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, as well as a variety of tropical and subtropical regions across the world.
History of Dates
The date palm’s origin is considered to have been forgotten in antiquity. However, it is believed to be first cultivated as early as 4000 B.C. in Southern Iraq (Mesopotamia). The fossil records indicate their existence on Earth for as long as fifty million years.
If we talk about the global date fruit consumption, Oman, followed by the UAE, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia comes at the top. However, the global average date consumption per person has been calculated to be 1.09 kg in 2018.
Why Are Dates Good For You?
Owing to the high content of soluble fiber in dates, most people connect them with digestive health benefits, but that’s not all they offer. One cup of dates has around 380 calories, 27% of the daily potassium requirement, and 48% of the daily fiber needed. They’re also rich in vitamins and minerals. Dates may aid in the prevention of osteoporosis by increasing bone health.
Because dates make the body feel full much quicker than many other foods, they are commonly taken after a fast or workout to prevent overeating. As a consequence, dates are an excellent munching option for those looking to shed weight without losing flavor.
What do Dates taste like?
Dates are extremely sweet, sticky, and chewy fruit with wrinkled skin. Their rich, caramel-like flavor, coupled with a hearty chew greatly mimics toffee, making it difficult to believe you’re munching on fruit. In terms of flavor and texture, dates have also been compared to a chewier, and more caramelly raisin. Others describe the flavor as a mix between a prune and a fig, with hints of chocolate and cinnamon.
How to Use Dates?
Dates are a versatile ingredient that may be utilized in a variety of recipes. Whole soft dates are served as a sweet dish on their own owing to their intensely sweet, toffee-like flavor and texture. Dates are often pitted, and stuffed with sweet or savory ingredients like nuts, butter, cream cheese, marzipan, chocolate, tahini, etc, to enhance their flavor, and are often exchanged on festivals like Eid, mainly in the Middle-Eastern and Asian region. Moreover, chocolate coated, and stuffed dates, being a recent innovation, are getting quite popular around the world.
Moroccan cuisine uses dates in Tagine, the slow-cooked meat stew cooked in a special earthenware known as tagine pottery. You can try out our Chicken Tagine recipe that’s infused with warm spices, and other hearty ingredients like chickpeas, dates, and nuts, and served over the bed of freshly cooked couscous.
Besides their sweet-savory applications, dates make some traditional desserts like date pudding, Christmas pudding, Sticky Toffee Pudding, and Hermit Cookie Bars. Date-nut bread is a commonly savored snack on festivities, and holidays, especially in the United States. Besides, dates are made into syrups, spreads, and pastes for cooking, as well as vinegar, and alcohol through intensive processing.
Dates also pair well with oats and nuts, making some highly nutritious, and balanced snacks like energy bars, and truffles. Try out this recipe for Dates Squares with Oat Crust for a healthy dessert. The crunchy oat crust of these delectable date squares contrasts with the substantial date inside. Whether you use dates in sweet or savory recipes, the option of eating them right out of hand is always the best, and least laborious.