Wonders of Dates -Fahmida Mehreen
Dates are one of the most common dry fruits consumed all across the world. It is more popular among the Muslim community for its origins; nonetheless, people from all nations savour the various kinds of dates available for consumption. In the Middle East, they are considered Holy Fruit, and the trees are called “Trees of Life”. Historians believe that the history of the cultivation of dates goes back to 8,000 years ago.
There are more than 200 types of dates, depending on shape, size, taste and colour. Their nutritional values also vary from kind to kind. They encompass health benefits like healthy hearts to well-functioning kidneys.
Medjool dates are very soft and delicate and taste very sweet. It has a fibrous texture. They come in large size in amber to dark amber colour. Since they are rich in moisture, they are perfect for eating when fresh. They are popular in places like the United States for making shakes and smoothies. They work as an energy drink since the fruit is rich in sugar and fibre.
Piarom dates are not that common in all parts of the world. They have dark skin which is completely attached to the flesh. It has a unique taste with a punch of toffee and caramel flavour. They are partly dry and semi-long and oval in size with dark black skin. Because of their level of fructose, they are highly beneficial for people with diabetes and high blood pressure. It can be taken as an evening snack, along with some crunching nuts to go with. History shows that they have been cultivated throughout the Persian Gulf and the Middle East since 6,000 BC – Ancient Mesopotamia.
Next comes Degtel Noor Dates. As beautiful as its name is, the dates taste delicious and are known for its aesthetic date flavour. They come in medium to large size and becomes darker in colour as it ripens. They ripen late in the season and are excellent for cooking. The name itself means “date of the light” because the centre of the date looks golden when held up in the sun. However, the origin of the date is not known in particular.
Mazfati dates contain 15% to 35% moisture with a natural sweetness with the traits of soft caramel and chocolate mixed with brown sugar. Now, doesn’t that sound scrumptious! They have an attractive and soft meaty appearance with a dark brown colour. The size varies between 2.5 to 4 centimetre with thick flesh. The dates contain ample vitamins, fibre and potassium. It can be munched on as a snack right out of your purse and beat your untimely hunger with something healthy. You can have it with cheese or other dry fruits to make it more flavoursome. The dates are originally from Bam, a small city in Kerman in Iran.
There we have Barhi dates that have a rich and syrupy flavour. They are the smallest and most fragile kind of dates. First, the fresh yellowish skin turn amber and then they turn into golden brown when stored. The fruit does not grow too big. It resorts to medium in size. They are most suitable for use in desserts. They tend to balance the texture of the dish along with other fruits. It can be served with custard and trifle. The fruit provides a high level of energy. Interestingly, the Barhi palm was introduced to California in 1913 from Basra, Iraq.
Rabbi dates are considered to be the best in taste for its fleshy and soft texture. It has a well-balanced sweetness. They are usually 3 to 5 centimetre in size. They are juicy but can also be regarded as semi-dry, with an alluring reddish black colour. They can be had as a snack or can be had with cereals, puddings, bread, cakes, ice-cream and even candy bars. They work like protein bars and, like many other dates, work as a source of energy. They are one of the oldest and finest dates cultivated in Iranian cities like Iranshahr, Zabul, Chabahar and other cities in Sistan Baluchistan.
Thoory dates have a nutty flavour. They are fairly dry. The fruit is medium to large oblong in shape with golden-brown flesh and ripens late in the season. Since they pair perfectly with bakery items, they are also known as bread dates. It is a famous type of date in Algeria.
Ajwa is one of the most well-known and most consumed dates in the world. It has a combination of sweet and dry variety. The softness makes it melt in the mouth. They are small in size and comes in a dark blackish colour. According to Holy Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has said that having seven ajwa dates in the morning protects a person from magic and poison till evening. Besides, ajwa dates are beneficial for heart patients and people with high blood sugar.
Amber dates are larger than other types of dates, and they have a smaller seed and more meat. They are rich in protein and are brown in colour. You can present a premium packet of amber dates as a present to your loved ones. They are considered as one of the most expensive dates in the world, especially in Saudi Arabia. It is available for around SR 50 to SR 100, depending on the size and shape of the date.
Safawi is another very popular type of date, whose flavour and sweetness is very intense. The chewiness of the date depends on how wrinkled the date is: the more the wrinkle, the harder it to chew. They are medium-sized round dates and have a dark black cherry colour with tipoffs of brown. Safawi dates are best known for treating anaemia and intoxication. They help digestion too. These light, moist, delicate dates are grown in Medina, Saudi Arabia.
There are many other dates such as anbara, saghai, khudri, sukkari, zahidi and many more. They all come with their own specialty, size and colour. Most of them are rich in sweetness and has a fine texture. The price range also varies based on the demand and the quality of the dates.
Dates are most heavily consumed during Ramadan, especially in the eastern part of the world. However, keeping the health and nutritional benefits and other added advantages of dates in mind, we can try to include our choice of date in our everyday diet. That will not only keep us healthy but also give a delight to our taste bud.