About Dried Dates
Dates were first cultivated as far back as 4000 BC in ancient Mesopotamia. They have been a staple of the Middle East since then and were more recently introduced to other areas of the world. Today, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran are the top producers of dates, although they are enjoyed all over the globe in baking and cooking applications. There are numerous varieties of dates, from the sweet and firm Jumbo Medjool dates to the small and caramel-like Barhi dates. Despite their slight differences in size, texture, and taste, all dates are rich in health benefits and can easily be incorporated into your diet.
10 Uses of Dried Dates
1) Mix chopped dates into breads, bars, muffins, and other baked goods
2) Stuff dates with nuts or cheese and enjoy them as an afternoon snack
3) Blend dates with yogurt and frozen fruits for a healthy smoothie
4) Use dates in place of raisins for oatmeal-date cookies
5) Wrap pitted dates in bacon and serve them as a tasty appetizer
6) Combine dates, dried fruit, and nuts in a food processor and form them into energy squares
7) Sauté dates with garlic, ginger and other spices for a homemade date chutney
8) Accompany pork, lamb, or poultry dishes with the sweetness of dates
9) Top ice cream or frozen yogurt off with chopped dates
10) Snack on dried dates for a boost of natural energy and nutrients
Health Benefits of Dates
1) A Sweet, Low-Fat Snack: Craving a sugary treat but don't want to regret it later? Dates are a natural and healthy way to satisfy a sweet tooth. There are only 24 calories per piece but they're loaded with dietary fiber and nutrients like potassium. In fact, dates contain three times as much potassium as bananas!
2) 5-A-Day Goal: It only takes five to six delicious California dates to fulfill one serving of the recommended goal for consuming at least five servings of fruit each day. In the U.S., the 5-A-Day program is now called Fruits & Veggies - More Matters but the goal is the same: to increase daily fruit and vegetable consumption among Americans.
3) Nutritional Powerhouse: Dates contain an excellent source of dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium, B-vitamins, and iron. One serving of California dates boasts nearly 15% of the recommended daily value for dietary fiber. The presence of minerals like potassium and magnesium protect the cardiovascular system and regulate metabolic processes. B-vitamins improve energy levels and iron helps our bodies produce oxygen-rich red blood cells.
How are dates harvested?
Harvest time varies for different varieties of dates, and usually takes place over the course of a few days for any single variety. Dates grow in bunches on palm trees, and these bunches are covered with nets close to harvest in order to collect fallen fruits. Taller palm trees are more difficult to harvest because lifts must be used to reach and collect the fruit bunches from the trees. The bunches on shorter trees can be shaken into bins to remove any ripe dates. Fruits that have fallen to the ground are subject to spoilage and are not collected. The harvested dates are then transported to processing facilities where they are cooled and disinfected before packaging.