The Date: Phoenix dactylifera is the sweetest of all fruit
It is one of the most popular fruits in Middle Eastern cuisine, no wonder, the date is sweet and rich in flavor and doesn’t need much else to serve as a truly royal desert.
The date is one of the most popular and most tasteful fruits in Iraq and can be found in many recipes, serves as snack and plays a big part in the culture.
Dates: Food worthy of kings and queens
There are numerous different types of dates, however, their ripeness usually determines their taste and edibility.
- kimri (unripe)
- khlal (crunchy)
- rutab (ripe and still soft)
- tamr (ripe and sun dried)
Fresh dates contain a lot of vitamin C which they lose when they get dried. As they don’t have a high concentration of water, they don’t change size much when being dried.
One of the most common ways to prepare dates is to remove the pit and stuff them with numerous ingredients, savory or sweet. Nuts, cheese or other fruits are especially popular, but dates also serve as sweeteners in other dishes, like bakery goods, salads or soups.
Although we are only used to eating dates, the whole plant can be used for food. The seeds can be turned into flour, the leaves can be cooked like a vegetable and the flowers can be eaten (for example in a salad). Out of the palms, one can also subtract sap and therefore convert it into palm sugar.
Needless to say, that dates and date palms are also ingredients to numerous drinks.
Health aspects of the date
Because they are high in tannin, dates are used for problems with intestinal problems and pains (and are mainly used against constipation in Western culture) but also are said to help with flu symptoms (sore throat, cough) and are even believed to lower fever and help with intoxication due to alcohol intake. Some studies even suggest, that the intake of dates can ease the last four weeks of a pregnancy and induce labor more naturally.
There are many people that would suggest dates for regular consumption solely for the health benefits.
For a dietary food, the date is very popular and can be found in muesli bars and digestive cookies but also can make sweet little pralines without much preparation. Despite the very high content in sugar (80%), it is said to be rather healthy opposed to other candies.
The date is mentioned numerous times in the bible but also plays part in many fairy tales which is no surprise, given that the apple for example, plays often a role in European tales where it is one of the most important fruits.