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Date

The date tree was cultivated as far back as 3,500 B.C. in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and in the Nile Valley of Egypt. These old date trees would range in height from forty to eighty feet. Dates were known as "the candy that grows on trees."

Early Spanish missionaries introduced the date tree to the Western World, and some of the original palms or their offshoots are still found in parts of California and Mexico, where the missions were first established. It was not until the middle of the nineteenth century, when they started planting date trees in the warmer interior valleys, that the date began to show promise commercially.

Dates are sweet and tasty when eaten fresh. This fruit can be preserved by drying it and either pressing it into cakes or packing it individually after the drying process. Centuries ago, Arabian caravans relied on dates in this dried form as their principal food on long journeys across the desert.

Fresh dates also add to many dishes, such as fruit salads, cereals, muffins, cookies, and cakes. Other date products are date honey, date sugar, date sap (an intoxicating drink), and date palm flour, which is made from the pith of the tree. Fresh dates keep well under refrigeration and are therefore available throughout the year. The season of top abundance is from September to May, and the peak is in November.

Dates are classified as soft, semidry, or dry, depending upon the softness of the ripe fruit. Another classification is according to the kind of sugar contained in the ripe ruit-invert-sugar dates contain dextrose and glucose, and cane-sugar dates contain mostly cane sugar (sucrose). Most of the soft varieties are invert-sugar dates, while most dry varieties are cane-sugar dates. The dry varieties contain only a little moisture when ripe and are nonperishable. while the soft or semidry varieties contain a considerable amount of moisture and are more perishable unless dried by either natural or artificial means.

The fully ripe date is plump, with a golden-brown smooth skin. The natural sugar contained in the date is much better for a person than highly refined white sugar. Dates that are pitted, stuffed with walnuts, and rolled in coconut are a delight to anyone. Children like dates and date-nut candies. and these are great to put in their lunches. Dates are certainly better for them than ordinary candy bars.

Dates in their dry, powdered form can be used as sugar. Dates used on cereals make a wonderful sweetener. They can be used finely cut in salads to change the flavor or added to breads and baked goods to give the natural sweet taste that many like. Stuffed dates with nut centers, nut butter centers, or coconut and honey centers, are wonderful for children.

The Deglet Noor date, which is native to Algeria, is the leading commercial variety in the United States. It is grown chiefly in the Coachella Valley of California, and accounts for about 85 percent of the total date crop. The fruit is medium to rather large; ovateoblong; coral red, ripening to amber, and curing to a deeper brown.

Dates go well with cottage cheese, or any other cheese, and with apples or any semiacid fruit. However, it is best not to mix them with very watery fruits, such as oranges, lemons, grapefruit, and watermelon.

Domestic dates are usually fresh. The only processing they receive is cleaning, pasteurizing, and either reducing or increasing the moisture as necessary for the best storing or eating quality. A so-called "cured" date is one that has either reached the proper state of dryness on the tree or has been dried after picking. The purpose of such drying is to reduce the moisture below the point at which the date would sour or mold.

Benefits of Date

Dates can be eaten with whole raw milk for ulcers of the stomach. When used this way, however, you may have to soak and peel them. The date water can be used with milk for children who have sensitive stomachs, as it helps digest the milk.

The fiber or cellulose of the date is very soft and will not irritate a sensitive bowel or stomach. Dates are heat-producing, and give energy to people who engage in physical exercise and hard work. They are also a good source of copper, which is a diet essential, even though it is needed by the body only in small amounts.

Nutrients in one pound

Calories
1,121
Iron
24 g
Protein
8.7 g
200 I.U.
Fat
2.4 g
.35 mg
Carbohydrates
297.8 g
.38 mg
Calcium
284 mg
8.6 mg
Phosphorus
237 mg
Ascorbic acid
0 mg


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