They grow in hot places like deserts and are among the freshest dry fruits. During their growth, these fruits tend to produce a lot of sugar, which crystallizes in the hot sun. This crystallized sugar slowly soaks the outer skin of the dates thus making them soft and chewy to eat. It is the presence of this sugar which makes them so sweet earning them the name of nature’s candy.
Date palms often occur in yellow, red or reddish brown, often occurring in the latter of the three colors.
They are believed to have been the staple diet of the Babylonians where they are found in abundance. They first became popular in areas in and around Egypt, Babylonia, and Mesopotamia and along the banks of the Nile and the Euphrates River. But, thanks to trade and transport, it soon spread to other countries and they are now found in almost all warm countries. These contain seeds but they are usually deseeded during mass production and marketing. Though they are sticky, they are quite irresistible and they are a factory for a whole lot of delicious recipes.
Desi date sauce
This is one lip-smacking recipe that is simply irresistible and would leave one craving for more. Indians have always found pride in their food and their recipes, many of which have become popular even in foreign countries. The combination of the sweet taste of the dates and the spices added simply multiply the zing in this recipe.
All one needs is a bottle of vinegar, olive oil, fresh, chopped chili pepper and the required Indian spices. The vinegar is used to improve the taste, giving it the required quantity of “tanginess”. The pepper gives it the spicy taste and it is this combination of the sweet dates and the spice which makes it a perfect accompaniment for snacks like French fries or anything that is fried. The procedure is very simple.
All one has to do is to put all the ingredients in a big vessel and is simmered under a medium flame for about 10-15 minutes. The required amount of salt is added to it and water is added to prevent it from getting too thick and solid. Then the entire simmered content is allowed to cool to room temperature. After this, it is transferred to a blender bowl and is blended till a smooth texture is obtained.
The yummy date jam
Yet another delicious recipe that can be made using dates is the date jam. This can be used like any other jam, almost on anything that one wishes. Be it toast, plain bread, buns, Indian bread, cakes and the list goes on!
Though preparation is slightly complex than the previous recipe, the end result is truly sumptuous. The main ingredients required for this one are sugar, ground cinnamon, non-flavored butter, peel and juice of lemon to give it a slightly sour taste and chopped or diced date pieces. Additional flavoring may be added like the essence of vanilla, orange or apple simply to give the jam its fruity taste and its irresistible fragrance. The date pieces and water is allowed to simmer under medium flame and is slowly brought to boil. Stirring of the contents is to be done throughout the process. Slowly, all the other ingredients are added to this mixture, while simultaneously stirring.
Stirring prevents the contents from getting solidified and thick at the beginning itself. Gradually, the mixture becomes smooth and thick. It is at this time that it is taken off the stove and is then allowed to cool to room temperature. It is then carefully stored in sterilized containers to prevent attack by moisture and maybe be used cold.
A dessert from the desert
True to the title, this recipe is perfect to end a truly delicious meal. This dessert is a liquid, making it a different and a tasty finisher. It is very simple to make and does not have a standard set of ingredients as it depends on an individual’s taste. However, the following ingredients are usually used for a perfect milkshake. 2 ripe bananas, the required quantity of fresh milk, chopped or diced dates, sugar, if required (even honey can be used a substitute), vanilla essence, nuts, if required. All the items, excluding the nuts are put into a blender and are mixed till a smooth liquid free of date chunks is obtained. It is best when served cold.
Date sandwich for the lazy
For those who simply hate having to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, this recipe is the one. In addition to being extremely simple to make, it is healthy and makes a great snack or lunch. Because of its taste, lunch time will never be the same again. The items required are very less and are easily available. These include rich, cream cheese, preferably non-flavored, honey, finely chopped deseeded dates and required slices of raisin bread (or normal bread would also suffice).
The date pieces can also be grounded using a blender and gently sprinkled on top of a thick layer of cheese and honey. It may be topped with any desired layer of toppings.
Benefits of dates
- Dates have been found to be very healthy and are packed with nutrients. They help in proper building of the body’s metabolism and in improving the immune system.
- Due to the presence of sugars, they are an excellent food to break a fast and are thus usually eaten during the Ramadan months. The sugars present in them immediately and easily mix with the blood thus replenishing the body’s lost glucose and electrolyte levels.
- Dates have been found to be rich in potassium, which help in maintaining the heart, by controlling the heart rate and the blood pressure thus reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
- They are also rich in calcium which is vital for the proper growth of bones and general body development.