Dates are a bit of mystery fruit. I first encountered them on a trip to Morocco where they were served with most meals. Almost like you would get a basket of bread at a restaurant in the U.S. But after a bout of food poisoning that knocked me out of the game for a week (unrelated to said dates), I blocked all memories of Moroccan food from my brain, dates included.
But as I got deeper into the world of cooking, especially healthy cooking, I realized I needed to come to terms with my disdain for dates. Because they’re actually…pretty great.
So what are dates anyways?
Great questions! A date is a stone fruit, meaning it has a single seed surrounded by an outer fleshy fruit (like peaches, mangoes, and olives). They’re grown on date palm trees, so where you would usually invision coconuts, picture big bunches of hundreds of dates!
And they go way back. Like 50 million years back, according to fossils. Us humans quickly learned of their magic back in Mesopotamia, and the date has remained popular in that region (Iraq, Middle East, Northern Africa) ever since. Egypt is the largest producer of dates today, followed by just about every other Middle Eastern country.
But of course, an ever-globalizing world means just about everyone can get their hands on some tasty dates nowadays. I’ve found them in the bulk foods section, with the produce, and bagged or boxed with other shelf-stable foods in many groceries. Choose dates that are shiny, unbroken, and not too hard. Don’t worry if they’re wrinkly, that’s normal!
Variations of Dates
There are about a million and one varieties of dates grown around the world, but in the U.S. you’ll mostly find the plump and tender Medjool Dates. There’s also the slender Deglet Noor Date, supposedly the “Queen of Dates”, though I’ve yet to come across it.
How to Store Dates
Store in an airtight container either in the fridge (up to a year) or at room temperature (a few months). How can they stay good for this long? Dates have the lowest moisture content of any whole fruit, only 30%, meaning they’re naturally dehydrated! As they age, the sugars in the date will gradually move to the surface, forming little sugar white spots. Fret not, these are not mold.
Medjool Date Nutrition Information
per 4 Medjool dates (100g)
- Calories: 277
- Carbohydrates: 75g
- Fiber: 7g, 27% Daily Value (DV)
- Protein: 2g
- Fat: 0g
- 20% DV of Potassium: A key mineral and electrolyte involved in countless processes, including healthy nervous system functioning and contraction of the heart and muscles.
- 15% DV of Manganese: A trace element that plays a role in healthy brain and nervous system function.
- 14% DV of Magnesium: A mineral that plays a large role in bone formation and maintenance in addition to being a part of over 300 reactions within the body.
- 14% DV of Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): A water-soluble vitamin that works behind the scenes as a coenzyme in many important reactions within your body, including protein metabolism and red blood cell formation, among countless other functions.
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