Dates, dates and more dates!
The season for dates is fast approaching here in Egypt, not that you’d notice because there always seems to be an abundance of dried dates in the shops.
The people here value these little treasures not only for their taste but also their remarkable health benefits.
Benefits that have been recorded as far back as the time of the Pharaohs.
Around harvest time, you’ll literally see them everywhere. Even on the ground lining pathways under the palm trees.
Children of all ages are treated to gifts of dates which are considered here, to be a symbol of generosity.
When I was a child, I absolutely detested the thought of eating them, let alone the taste. Anyone growing up in the western world would probably identify with my early experience of dates.
Usually eaten during the Christmas festive season, along with other dried fruit, accompanied by nuts and a nutcracker that my tiny hands could never manipulate.
Absolutely awful! They came in a small wooden box, still attached to a central stalk, and with a pronged fork-like stick included in the box designed to stab the fruit!
Stabbing never worked for me!
It just never ever worked! Either the prongs on the fork were ineffective and just never got deep enough to secure a one of these over dried delights. Or the thing just snapped in my tiny hands.
As a result, as a small child, the only pleasure I saw in eating a date was gone in my futile attempts to try to use the self-contained fork!
Moreover, I couldn’t stand the taste or texture of what everyone else was raving about and saying I should eat because of its nutritional benefits.
These are an entirely a different affair. Sometimes I can’t eat enough of them especially the fresh ones.
Fresh from the tree, they’re ripe and succulent and absolutely fabulous! Even the dried variety are delicious.
Although Egypt is the worlds top producer, the main two found here are the Hayany and Zaghloul which are soft yet dry fruit.
A third type commonly eaten here called the Barhi, is a soft fresh fruit that needs to be stored in the fridge to prevent spoiling.
Towards the middle of spring you can see evidence of the early green fruit beginning to appear just beneath the fronds of the palm trees.
So plentiful, that excess fruit from the laden branches litter the ground.
By August they reach the khalal stage, sweet and crunchy, with a texture very similar to apples.
Around mid-September they reach full ripeness. Dry, yet sweet and succulent with the characteristic malty taste.
Bearing no resemblance to the dried up husky version, I endured as a child.
Even more so, when the fruit ages here, they retain their sweetness and become chewy with a texture like candy and very pleasant to eat.
Beware of the candy effect!
Chewy and candy like, these dates are delicious. But beware, I once got carried away eating them and ate ten or twelve.
The following day when returning from an afternoon at the beach. I had an overwhelming urge to use the toilet.
Being several kilometers away from the town, it was a mad rush to find the nearest public toilets.
The humble date has a powerful laxative effect, worst when it’s an unwelcome side effect of gluttony!
Don’t over indulge on these little treats of nature, unless that’s the effect you’re looking for.
Packed with fiber and a great laxative, they’re a powerhouse of nutrients. So it’s no wonder people in Egypt try to eat at least three a day.
Health Benefits and Nutrients
Processed into syrup, sugar, vinegar, juice and even alcohol! The date is truly one of natures super foods.
Add to granola, muesli, deserts, smoothies; coffee, bread, cakes and vegan milk recipe as a sweetener.
Abundant with vitamins and minerals, they are great for maintaining good health, development and growth.
- The dietary fiber in these little beauties not only provide bulk laxative. Helps to protect the mucous membrane and binds cancer causing cells in the colon.
- The raw fruit, has simple sugars, fructose and dextrose making them easy to digest.
- They rank low on the Glycemic Index and therefore, can even be eaten by diabetics.
- Rich in antioxidants:- Tanins that are great for inflammation; and Flavonoids which protect the body from the harmful effects of free radicals, that cause colon, prostrate, endometrial and lung cancers.
- They posses an important dietary carotenoid that protects the eyes from age related macular- degeneration.
- They contain B-complex vitamins
- Vitamins A,C,D and K
- Minerals: Iron, potassium, calcium, manganese, zinc and copper.
So, dates are a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals that;
- Promotes Wellness
- Improves bone health
- They are rich in protein
- Strengthens the nervous system
- Good for the skin
- Staves off hunger
- Helps to support weight gain – athletes have been known to take dates for this and to improve stamina.
- 7 or 8 dates taken before bedtime cleanses the intestines of parasites
With all these wonderful benefits, eating this super food daily, can be far better than taking over the counter supplements.