Date called “the bread of the desert” is a fruit that comes from the deserts of Arabia. Date is the major food source for millions of people living in the Middle East and North Africa. The cultivation of dates is believed to have started in the Middle East in 5000 B C. The fruit finds mention in the old testament of Bible and in the Quran.
Dates grow in date palm. The tree is a tall evergreen one which grows up to 30 metres in height. The tree is believed to have originated in the area around Iraq. It is now widely cultivated. Date palms have separate male and female plants. Pollination in date palm happens with the aid of winds. Usually the tree does not produce branches. The long leaves surrender the tree in a spiral pattern. The tree grows in deserts and is a symbol of fertility. This belief has made the tree depicted on monuments and coins. Even Greek architecture was fascinated by the tree and the shape of date palm has inspired a style of column in Greek architecture.
According to an old Arab saying, the uses of date tree are countless. All parts of date palm have commercial value. The fruit of the tree, date is a widely used nutritious food. The trunk of date palm is used for timber while the leaves are used for weaving mats and baskets. The bark of date palm finds application as a building material. Sap produced from the tree is widely used as an ingredient in baking. Powdered date seeds are being used as an ingredient in cattle feed.
Each date palm produces five to ten bunches of dates. Each bunch may contain up to thousand dates weighing around 7 kg. The tree attains full production capacity at around 10 years. It starts bearing fruits from the age of 3 years.
The fruit contains a hard seed in the centre which is covered by succulent, soft flesh of the fruit. The colour of matured dates, when fully ripe, is reddish –brown. Unripe dates are green in colour. The fruit has high sugar content and is a powerhouse of energy. The date is a source of nutrition, apart from being a tasty fruit. The fruit contains minerals, proteins and vitamins. Dates contain Vitamin C. Dates are home to a number of minerals like calcium, potassium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium and copper. Dates reduce blood pressure by dilating blood vessels and lower bad cholesterol level. The rich fibre content of the fruit is a good source of potassium. Dates are well known for high iron content which help to prevent anemia.
Dates also offer other benefits like relief from constipation, diarrhea, abdominal cancer and intestinal disorders. They support body building and health specialists are advising their patients to eat at least one date per day to have a balanced and healthy diet. Dates are used in many ways. They are used by mixing the paste of dates with milk, yogurt or by spreading on bread.
Dates help to relieve constipation. The minerals found in dates strengthen bones. Regular intake of dates supports the growth of friendly bacteria in intestine. The presence of fibre plays a vital role in motion. The organic Sulphur content in the fruit reduces allergic reactions and seasonal allergies. They maintain the heart in good condition and promote a healthy nervous system. Fruits: Different types and their features