December 30, 2020 by D.Fathia
Are fresh dates a mere golden treat or a health treasure?
Dates are a cultural heritage linked to the Middle Eastern deserts. Palm trees, the magnificent bearers of this fruit, are perhaps the most venerated and meaning-generators for Arabs. Dates might have been at the core of the Arabic essence; however, they are now globally admired, planted, and consumed excessively.
Dates are associated with values such as generosity and fertility. Bedouins had always equated dates with plentifulness. Those owning good amounts of dates were considered rich.
They are no longer an ethnic fruit; they are a mainstream product. You might still be ignorant of dates because they are not rightfully introduced to the western world. Keep reading to find out more about this majestic fruit.
The told and untold history of dates:
Archeological excavations revealed that palm trees have been a staple in agriculture for nearly fifty million years or more. References to this fruit exist across cultures, civilizations, and holy books.
Greek mythology links them to the everlasting Phoenix. Pliny tells of the phoenix bird rising again at the top of a palm tree. Symbolic readings focus on the longevity of this tree and link its colossal height to signs of grandeur and pride. Hence it represents the right plant to foster the rebirth of the phoenix, a bird symbolic of eternal life, majesty, and nobleness.
The Quran classifies the palm tree among the fruits of paradise. The Virgin Mary was instructed to eat dates while giving birth to Jesus, under a palm tree. Such stories were enough to oblige people living in antiquity to show deeper respect to this tree and make a living out of it. People inhabiting the deserts during ancient times were living off fresh and dried dates.
Architecture experts say that the shape of the palm leaf had inspired the shape of a certain style of columns famous across the Greek culture. Realistic observations, on the other hand, notice that the shape of the leaf resembles the shape of the human hand. That’s how the tree came to be named.
Palm trees can stand hot temperatures and dry soils. Therefore, it is normal to find blooming palm oases in Middle Eastern and North African countries. Nevertheless, new plantations in relatively cold climates are yielding fair crops too. Palm trees might not require consistent attention, yet they need a supply of water. Rain usually provides sufficient supplies.
Types of fresh dates:
Dates are a generic nomenclature combining several types. While some varieties are cultivated mainly and originally in the Middle East, others have been relocated to different areas from North Africa to Asian and European lands. The following list charts the commonly known types of dates.
Barhi: was originally cultivated in Basra, Iraq. It has unique amber to mahogany brown color. The fruits are very soft, with thick flesh and a super sweet taste. Bahri palm trees are very popular in American and European orchards.
Thooryis a wrinkled dates’ variety. It is popular mostly in Algeria. The color cannot be distinguished properly, whether it is red or brown.
Halawy:is a super sweet sugary variety of fresh dates. It is the namesake of a kind of sweets. It has golden-brown colored skin.
Medjool: is a reddish-brown date. It grows nearly exclusively in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Palestine.
Khardawy: is one of the best types of fresh dates to eat. It has an orange-brown to light brown color. It is characterized by a very rich texture and sweet flavor.
Fard: is dark brown fruit. It is globally associated with Oman.
Zahidi: is a golden full of syrup type of fresh dates. It ripens early. Suitable for cooking thanks to its honey-flavored texture and thick meaty flesh.
Dayri:is a long date, red-colored, and changes to black when it ripens.
Zaghloul: is a long red fruit, famously grown in Egypt.
Sukkari:is one type belonging to the royal breed of dates. It is harvested before fully ripening. They are super soft and enjoy a golden yellow color.
Deglet Nooris one of the most delicious dates. It is named symbolically regarding light as it is so transparent that light can go through it when held against the sun. It is eaten fresh and cannot be dried. Though the season of deglet Noor lasts only about three months, it can be stored for year-round use. Deglet Noor dates are quite sweet and savory and are globally acknowledged for their superior quality.
Dates’ varieties are numerous. Other types include Khudri, Sayer, Rabbi, Piarom, and Safawi. Probably it takes a botanist to unearth the genealogy and genetic diversity of palm trees. Besides, recent efforts have been accumulating to genetically modify certain types of date trees. They aim at producing new varieties of dates. These endeavors take into consideration factors such as resistance to diseases, climatic conditions, and productivity rates.
Morphology of fresh dates:
Similar to all things in life, fresh dates undergo a few stages of metamorphosis. Before sweeping the markets and becoming your main dessert and kitchen staple for months, dates have specific preamble phases. Under the heated sun rays, these fruits mature from a tiny tasteless seed into ripening sugary dates. We can specify four main stages.
· Kimri phase: just after pollination, fruits are green and extremely hard and bitter. Dates are still tiny in size and not edible.
· Khalal phase: at this point, dates are fully grown. Their color turns to yellow, and their sugar levels increase significantly. Some types are harvested during this stage. A great percentage of the crops are consumed, while some are left to ripen after slicing.
· Rutap phase: this phase announces the harvest season. Almost all dates ripen by this time, though they might not ripen at the same time. Their texture softens, and their colors turn into light brown.
· Tamar phase: this marks the last stage of the dates’ life on their mother trees. Dates are still soft, but some varieties might be semi-dry.
Although dates have high sugar content, most of it is natural sugar, which means it is health-friendly. Fresh dates are a great energy booster. They are rich in nutrients and antioxidant properties; that is why they make a perfect food option on their own. Various recipes exist using fresh and dried dates. Regardless of the eating method, fresh dates are the ultimate rewarding fruit.