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Dates From A to Z: 26 Interesting Things to Know

Dates From A to Z: 26 Interesting Things to Know

An authentic Middle Eastern delicacy, rich in sweetness and symbolic values: find out more about date palm facts and figures, nutrition information and history.

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Al-Zad al-negidh. It means 'the real food for travelling' and this is the name given to dates by the Manasir Bedouin tribes who claim it is possible to live off nothing but dates and water for years and who nourish women who have just given birth with a sort of pudding made from water and dates for three days after the event.

Bhari. A small round variety with a butterscotch flavour: a truly natural toffee. It is one of the few varieties – together with the Hiann, for instance – that can be eaten fresh when still in the khalal stage.

Coffee. After roasting, date stones are sometimes used as a coffee substitute.

Deir al-Balah meaning Village of Dates is located in the Gaza Strip and is renowned for its exceptionally sweet red dates.

Energy. Dates are considered to be a calorie bomb: they have 253/287 calories per 100 g, which means up to 70 calories per date. A positive energy boost with highly beneficial properties.

Finger. The name of this fruit derives from the Greek word 'daktylos', meaning 'finger'.

Glucose. Dates are among the fruits most rich in glucose whose content may even reach 70%. Industrially processed dates are often given a further coating of glucose – as well as preservatives, one of the most common of which is E202.

Honey. Date ‘honey’ makes an excellent alternative to sugar and is obtained by blending dates – preferably soft ones - with the possible addition of a little water.

Iftar. In the Islamic culture, dates are eaten (with yogurt or milk) as the first food of the Iftar, the evening meal consumed after sundown during Ramadam.

Judean. The Judean date palm is a date palm traditionally grown in Judea. In 2005 a 2000 year- old seed germinated, making this event the oldest verified human-assisted germination of a seed. The palm tree which grew out of it has been called Methuselah.

Khalal. These are fresh dates in the stage in which they are yellow and crunchy like an apple. This is preceded by the unripe stage – called kimri; it is followed by the phase in which they are soft and ripe – rutab and, finally that of tamr, meaning sun-dried.

Lithophaga lithophaga. This is a shellfish that looks just like a date and hence its name of date mussel. It is illegal to collect them, sell them or consume them in countries of the European Union.

Medjool. This is one of the most highly-prized date varieties, renowned for its softness and sweetness. It comes from Israel and Palestine but – together with the Deglet Noor – today it is even cultivated in the United States.

1947 (Nineteenfortyseven) Chicago Culinary Institute: this is the most famous date bread recipe in the United States where this sweet little bread loaf is very popular. Originally a speciality of Arab countries, where date flour is obtained from sun-dried dates and often mixed with that of barley.

One thousand. On the plant, dates grow in thick clusters bearing from 200 to as many as 1,000 fruits each.

Palm. The tree on which dates grow is a palm, the Phoenix Dactylifera, which reaches a height of 20 or 30 metres. It is surprisingly long-lived and productive: some species start to bear fruit after just three years and can live up to three centuries; when fully mature a plant can produce over 50 kilos of fruit a year.

Queen of all dates. Its name is Deglet Nour, it is soft, translucent and tastes of honey. Called 'Queen of all dates', it is one of the best cultivars in the world and, according to the FAO, the most significant in terms of export value. Its homeland is that of some Algerian oases.

Ready to deliver. A study conducted by Jordan University has shown that women who eat six dates a day for the four weeks preceding childbirth have a better chance of spontaneous labour and greater cervical dilation. Other studies show that the oxytocin contained in dates also enhances the quality of breast milk.

Soft versus hard. According to the variety, dates may have hard or soft pulp: the former are particularly sought-after in Arab countries whilst the latter, of a fleshier kind, are highly appreciated in Europe and America.

Tajine. In this traditional Moroccan stew generally accompanied by couscous, dates are used for typical sweet and sour combinations, for instance with lamb – together with spices like ginger, cumin, cinnamon and saffron.

UNESCO. The Palmeral of Elche is the date palm plantation complex around the city of Elche in south-east Spain. Originally planted by the Carthaginians in the V century B.C., today it is a UNESCO heritage site.

Vinegar. Vinegar can also be made from dates: it is a typical Middle Eastern product.

Wine. The ancient Egyptians used to ferment this fruit to make wine. Today, dates continue to be used in the production of various alcoholic beverages.

Xmas. In Italy and other European countries it is customary to eat dates at Christmas. There are many reasons for this tradition: the fact that they come from the birthplace of Jesus, and the symbolic value of the palm tree as being representative of martyrdom, victory and fertility.

Yotam Ottolenghi. The Israeli chef and restaurant owner defines date syrup as the ‘curveball ingredient’ of his bestselling cookbook ‘Jerusalem'.

Zahedi. One of the better known varieties of the hundreds grown in Iran, the world’s biggest date producer together with Egypt. It is a semi-dried and particularly sugary variety, widely used in the food industry.

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