Date

The date is a small, oblong fruit of the date palm tree that grows in clusters of as many as 200. The mature date is approximately 2 inches long and 1 inch wide and has a somewhat wrinkled skin and a single, central pit. Dates can be yellow to orange, red, green, or brown.

Family Palmaceae

Scientific name Phoenix dactylifera L. Common name date

^ A good source of fiber

Varieties

Fresh dates are classified as "soft," "semi-soft," and "dry," depending on their moisture content. The most common type is "semisoft," a well-known example of which is the large, flavorful Medjool from Morocco. Other "semisoft" varieties are the firm-fleshed, amber Deglet Noor and the small, golden Zahidi. The Barhi, Khadrawy, and Halawy are "soft" dates. "Dry" varieties contain relatively little moisture when ripe. Thus, the term "dry" does not mean "dehydrated" or "dried."

Origin & botanicAl facts

Dates originated somewhere in the desert area that stretches from India to North Africa. Cultivation seems to have begun at least 8,000 years ago, when settlement began along the Jordan River and around the Dead Sea. Archaeological evidence indicates that cultivation of dates was well established by 3000 B.C. in what is now Iraq.

The northern coastal region of the Middle East was originally called Phoenicia, a name that may be the source of the early Greek term for the date, phoenix. The word "date" appears to have been derived from the Greek daktylos, which is related to part of the

fruit's scientific name, dactylifera. Dactylifera means "the finger-bearer," an apt description of the date palm, with its brown bunches of finger-like fruit.

Dates were first brought to the Americas in the 18 th century by Spanish missionaries, who planted date palms around their missions. Some of these original trees still stand in southern California and in Mexico. Today, although the Middle East supplies three-fourths of the world's dates, much of the American demand is supplied by dates from California and Arizona. Seventy-five percent of California dates are of the Deglet Noor variety, but some Medjools are grown along the Colorado River.

The date palm grows to about 100 feet in height. The tree itself can thrive in almost any warm climate, but fruit production requires a hot, dry environment with an underground water supply. Humidity prevents the fruit from setting, and temperatures below 70° Fahrenheit prevent ripening.

Uses_

The dates most often available in stores are either fresh or partly dehydrated. These may be difficult to distinguish, because fresh dates are rather wrinkled, and both types are usually packaged in cellophane. Covered and refrigerated, both types should keep indefinitely.

Fresh dates can be eaten as a snack or chopped and added to dry and cooked cereal, yogurt, puddings, breads and muffins, cookies, and ice cream. Middle Eastern recipes include dates in stews, poultry stuffing, and pilafs.

Nutrient composition

One serving of dates provides minimal amounts of vitamins and minerals, but dates are a good source of dietary fiber.

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Uses_

The dates most often available in stores are either fresh or partly dehydrated. These may be difficult to distinguish,

Nutrient Content

Energy (kilocalories)

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