Along the almonds, dates are the only fruits mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible. This suggests that date palms are very old plants indeed and they were among the earliest plants to be cultivated. Archeologists found date stones that are believed to date back to 4500 BC. In Ancient Egypt date palms have been viewed as a symbol of fertility due to the fact that they grew miraculously along rivers in the driest parts of dessert. Although dates played a significant part in history of various cultures, it is still unknown where this plant originated. Some scientists think it was Mesopotamia, whole the others believe that it was Saudi Arabia or North Africa. In Babylon dates were used to make vine and vinegar while Arabian warriors always took 2 bags of dates.
Date palms love the heat, so it is not surprising that they manage to grow in the hottest and driest places. The greatest part of date palms grows in Arabic countries. Saudi Arabia produces and sells the greatest number of dates in the world. Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia are also among the large producers. Nowadays date palms also grow in various parts of the world such as the USA (California), Mexico, Australia and South Africa. In addition, there is such an abundance of varieties of dates that even the professionals find it hard to differentiate between them.
Dates need the heat to ripen and the heat also helps them dry and to turn into those wrinkly sweet raisins. Once the dates have lost some of their moisture they are ready to harvest. As dates lose some of their water in the dry desert air the concentration of sugar increases. That is why dates are so sweet.
- Nutritional value
Dates contain a lot of iron, mineral salts, vitamins A and B, and proteins. Dates contain 23 varieties of amino acids as well as zinc, phosphorus, calcium, selenium and vitamin E. Some scientists believe that 10 dates a day are enough to provide a person with the daily supply of magnesium, copper, sulphur and half of the daily allowance of iron. Some dieticians even purpose that a glass of milk and one date can supply all nutrients one’s body needs.
Dates have very high calorie content. That is why some people are afraid of including them into their ration. However it is very unlikely that eating dates can lead to excessive weight. On the contrary they make a great substitution for regular sweets, cakes and biscuits.
Among all fruits dates have the largest content of sugar – 60-65%. However, due to the fact that those sugars are mainly glucose and fructose, they are not bad for one’s body.
- Natural goodness
Since the ancient times date were believed to have healing powers. They were thought to give strength and endurance and to increase the life span. They have a positive effect on heart, liver and kidneys and help to maintain acid-base balance and promote immunity. High content of fiber helps to prevent cancer. Another great effect of dates if that they can act as a mild hypnotic. Amino acid called tryptophan which is contained in dates turns into melatonin – a dream hormone.
Dates have a very wide usage. For example, in the countries where dates grow they are turned into a paste which can be stored for over a year. Dates can also be used in compotes, muesli and pastries. After fermentation dates can be turned into a tasty drink. One can also try adding them to fruit salads. Dates can be turned into date honey and sugar.