What Are Dates: Learn About This Fruity Tasty Treats
What is Date Fruit?
A date is a fruit that grows on the date palm. There are three general categories of dates: soft, semi-dry/semi-sweet, and dry. The main difference between these three types is how they are dried after harvesting.
Many varieties exist, depending on how large each fruit can grow when it ripens and how much sugar it contains.
There are many different types of dates that people enjoy eating. Some common date fruits include Deglet Noor, Costa Rica, Honey, Zahidi, Halawi, Honey Ball, Sukkary, Medjool, Barhi, Black Sphinx and Khadrawy. Dates are versatile fruit because they can be made into snacks or desserts.
History of Dates Fruit
Date palms and Date fruits have a history of being cultivated in the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa for several millennia. Date palm cultivation has taken place in Southern Europe for centuries.
It is often said that Dates are a staple of the Jordanian diet. They are part of the national heritage as crucial as olive oil or grapevine. In Jordan, many dates are grown from various places, such as Shobak, Jerash, and Al Quwaysimah. Dates from the Ajloun region mentioned by Ibn Bassal (1145-1234), a famous Arab writer about plants in Spain, were known to be very sweet and tasty during his time.
The ‘Ajlouni’ is now one of the most preferred types of dates in Jordan and abroad.
Facts About the Date Fruit
The date fruit is widely grown throughout the Middle East. It is naturally grown within arid and semi-arid areas, where other trees and crops are not as productive due to the inability of different crops to thrive under similar climatic conditions.
With high moisture requirements, dates will do well only in hot, dry areas with either a long season (240+ days) or enough rain during part of the year to make artificial irrigation unnecessary.
Cultivation of dates does not take place if there isn’t at least 300 mm (12 inches) average rainfall per year; 400–600 mm (16–24 inches) is considered by growers as ideal for sound production. Good quality cultivation requires heavy annual rainfall, good drainage and heavy soils with high sand content.
The date palm is a rugged tree capable of withstanding long periods of drought and wide fluctuations in temperature.
The winter temperatures do not bother the palm much, as it will defoliate during cold periods and then grow new leaves when warm weather returns.
The Temperature drop does reduce fruit yields, however. Dates are susceptible to several fungal diseases and insects, including the citron gummosis caused by the fungus Phytophthora palmivora, which can lead to the death of the plant. A bacterial infection that affects date palms is an arrest disorder.
Date Fruit Nutritional Content
Calories 172 Iron 1.9 mg Zinc 0.1 mg Calcium 25 mg Carbohydrates 50 g Fiber 2 g Fat 0.4 g Protein 1 g Potassium 424 mg Sodium 5 mg Vitamin A 0 IU Vitamin C 0 mg Cholesterol 0 mg Sugar 46 g Thiamin (B1) 10% RDA
Where are Dates Grown?
Jordan is considered one of the leading producers and exporters of Dates in the world. The total area planted with date palms is more than 124,000 dunums (124 km²), representing 8% of the Kingdom’s entire cultivated land.
This puts Jordan ahead of such major producers as Iraq, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. Date palm plantations occupy about 165 thousand families throughout the Kingdom, most farming plots ranging from 1-5 dunum (1–5 hectares).
Date production constitutes 5% of the agricultural output of annual turnover exceeding JD 20 million or USD 28 million. Annual per capita consumption is around 30 kilograms (66 pounds), and it reaches between 65 and 80 kilograms per household.
The production occurs mainly in northern Jordan, exceeding 60% of total fruit production in Jordan, and covers more than 44000 hectares of land, which is about 8% of cultivated land in Jordan.
It contributes lately around 20 million JD to the Jordanian economy. Jordan exported more than 1,400 tonnes a year to over 40 countries by the end of 2015.
According to FAO data from 2013-2014, the APAC region has been producing an excess amount of Dates while there is a deficit in the other areas, including Europe and the USA, so this may contribute to the reason why Jordanian Date exporters enjoy such a high market in this region.
Jordan is considered the number one exporter of dates in the world. JORDAN exported more than 1,400 tonnes a year to over 40 countries by the end of 2015.
Date palms are grown in many areas where other crops do not grow well; they can be grown successfully at elevations up to 900 meters (3,000 feet) above sea level and close to sea level. Date palms can tolerate brackish water up to 500 ppm salinity; they thrive within 100 km (60 miles) of the ocean.
The date palm was introduced into Southern California during the 1880s for ornamental purposes. There are now 20 million date palms in southern California, primarily along desert arroyos, with a significant economic impact. Date crops are also grown in southern Africa, northern Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and Southern California.
Date palms can be grown successfully at elevations up to 900 meters (3,000 feet) above sea level and close to sea level.
The date palm was introduced into Southern California during the 1880s for ornamental purposes. There are now 20 million date palms in southern California, primarily along desert arroyos.
Date crops are also grown in southern Africa, Northern Africa & The Caribbean.
A Mediterranean climate is one with relatively wet winters and hot, dry summers. The rainfall amount varies between different parts of its growing area, which ranges from 200mm-400mm depending on location, but usually, they prefer soil that is well-drained yet retains moisture. It also requires continuous hot weather to develop its distinctive sweet flavor. The average temperature is 20-25 Celsius, but it can tolerate high temperatures up to nearly 50 degrees.
What Are The Types of Dates?
Date varieties are divided into two broad categories: soft and dry. In the United States, almost all domestically grown dates are Deglet Noor, a semi- “dry” date. Other varieties include Medjool, Bajool, Barhi, Halawi, Honey Ball ( Hāwl ), Khadrawy(Khadra), Dayri, and Zahidi.
The Palmyra palm has been cultivated in South Florida for many years, but its fruit has limited appeal to consumers, probably due to its high fiber content. It is, however, a favorite in many Middle Eastern communities.
Types of dates include:
1) Deglet Noor Dates
The most common variety is found in the US & Europe. Also called “Deutsche” which means “to suck”, it is dry with a chewy texture suitable for snacks or breakfast cereals. It contains more sugar than other varieties; therefore, it has more calories, so it’s advisable to eat these Dates occasionally, also suitable for Date Paste.
2) Medjool Dates
Medjools are large, sweet fruit with flesh that melts in your mouth and oil content ranging between 6% – 12% depending on the maturation stage. It is considered one of the finest fruits in the world due to its delicious taste & unique size & shape. It’s mostly eaten fresh but also used to make juice, smoothies, ice cream, bread & sweets. Medjools are best stored at room temperature in the open air.
3) Barhi Dates
This Date is unique because it contains more than 19% oil. The skin of this variety may be blueish green or reddish-brown. The flesh is amber colored with a soft texture. This type has tiny seeds which are easy to detach from the fruit flesh because they adhere loosely.
4) Halawa Dates
Halawa dates have a deep yellow color when ripe and translucent pulp that tastes sweet & sour with an aromatic flavor. They are highly valued for their unique aroma, taste, and deep yellow color, and there is a massive demand for this Date in the Gulf Region.
5) Khadrawy Dates
This variety is green when under-ripe and yellowish-brown in color when ripe. It has a firm texture that is succulent with a crunchy seed. The flesh comes out easily from the skin; therefore, eating them without peeling off the skin is not recommended. But it can be used in making bread, juice, smoothies & ice cream.
6) Dayri Dates
It is very soft with little or no astringency when ripe. The pulp may have been fermented due to its high sugar content. Therefore, these dates are seldom found in markets because they taste bad if not consumed immediately after harvesting.
7) Zahidi Dates
They are ideal for making date milk or Date Paste (which can be eaten alone or used in cooking, especially in Arabic halava). They are also good when eaten fresh. The skin of Zahidis is fragile, soft, and easily peeled. The pulp has tiny seeds which adhere to the flesh.
Benefits of Dates Fruit
Dates contain dietary fiber that helps lower blood cholesterol levels; it also has multiple B-complex groups of vitamins like thiamin(vitamin B1) & riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin (Vitamin B3), pyridoxine (Vitamin B6) & Folate Vitamin A, C & E, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Phosphorus & Zinc.
Dates also contain Iron and protein (5g/100gm).
They also contain Amino acids like Tryptophan, Threonine which are suitable for brain development & maintenance of body tissues. Dates are high in calories (54 per 100 g) and carbohydrates(90%); therefore should be eaten in moderation.
Nutritional Value of Dates
An average Deglet Noor Date has about 40 calories per fruit. Medjools have a total of 54 grams of sugar per 100g serving which includes fructose and glucose. Honey dates have 55 kcal in 100g. Khadrawy is also high in sugar but lower in carbs.
Why do Dates Taste So Sweet?
Dates are naturally sweet due to the presence of sucrose (table sugar) and fructose. The varieties with white flesh, such as Halawy or Barhi, have more natural sugar compared to other types that look brown such as Deglet Noor.
Date Paste is made from pureeing Dates and adding some water into it. So the result is that most of the fiber & water was removed, leaving mostly sugar & minerals, which increases its calorie content. 12oz of Date Paste with no added sugar has about 400kcal, but if you add two spoons of sugar, it has 800kcal.
Can I Reduce Calorie Intake By Eating Dates?
Yes, you can! Since Dates are sweet due to their natural sugars, we can easily trick our taste buds by eating more than they need. That’s why I advise people who want to lose weight not to eat Medjools but rather a variety that contains lower sugar such as Barhi. But if you can tolerate eating high-calorie types, then go ahead & eat Medjools.
What Are The Benefits of Eating Dates?
Dates have many health benefits, but some of them include: – Preventing anemia due to its high iron content. Some studies also showed that they might help increase fertility in men & women – Regular consumption is said to reduce the risk of kidney stones. – They have been known to stimulate the production of breast milk and prevent constipation.
Why do Dates Look Brown When They’re Under Ripeness?
Very soft Medjool dates need a long time to ripen compared to other varieties, which take only a few days (since they haven’t reached their peak sugar content yet). So Medjools usually look like brown when they’re under-ripe, but that doesn’t mean that you can eat them since they might not be that sweet or crunchy.
What’s The Best Way To Store Dates?
You should always store your dates in an airtight container such as a jar and place them in a fridge because humidity outside the refrigerator will cause rapid decay, so it’s better to keep them dry to prevent moulding. Also, Dates don’t need any cooking process, so you can eat your whole dates raw if you want!