Dates are indeed known to be the most ancient fruit that is still cultivated to this day! The origin is believed to be in the area of Iraq, but because of it's ancient history, no one really knows the exact origin for sure. Phoenix dactylifera, (or "date palm"), has naturally grown in the Middle East, and North African region for over 6,000 years! In ancient Greek, the fruit was called daktulos ("date"), which means "finger"- since the fruit resembles the shape. Interestingly, the date palm has existed for at least 50 million years according to fossil records! Dates have been a sustaining food in this part of the world since the days of Babylonians, Sumerians, Akadians, and ancient Egyptians. So regarded is this fruit in ancient times, that it has been found to symbolize a year in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, and the trees have been documented to have been used in the construction of ancient buildings and temples. Ancient Egyptians consumed the fruit for food, medicinal purposes, and would also make a wine from it. This fruit has been rooted in the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religions- having been mentioned in the bible, regarded as one of the "7 holy fruits" in the Jewish religion, and there are legends to suggest that instead of the apple being known as the forbidden fruit that Eve ate, it was actually the date that is the fruit of the "Tree of knowledge of good and evil"!
There are a few varieties of dates:
Common Dates (kenta, alligh, kouat alligh, sayer, and zahedi.)
The Medjool dates are touted as the finest variety of all the dates, known as the "king of fruits"! Some of the other varieties are smaller and a bit drier in taste and texture- not as sweet or juicy. But, the medjools are the plumpest, largest, and sweetest of the varieties, and savored by Moroccan royalty. By themselves they are an irresistible treat, but when stuffed- oh... don't get me started! Addicting and incredibly satisfying is all I have to say!
But, are these healthy? Oh, definitely!! Here is just a glimpse at what these amazing sweets can do:
**High in potassium- a better source than bananas!! Builds muscle tone, helps with ph balance in the body, blood sugar regulation, helps in regulation of blood pressure/fluid balance, and excellent energy source!
**Excellent source of copper- aids in absorption of iron, healthy nervous system, etc.
**High fiber content- aids in a healthy digestive system, and satisfies your hunger
**Contains no fat, sodium, or cholesterol!
**High in antioxidants- reduces risk of cancer, rids body of bad fats, aids in heart health.
**High in complex B vitamins- great for skin and hair health, liver function, mood regulation, red blood cell development.
Dates make for an excellent snack or special treat any day, and any time! Whether you use them in salads, desserts, snacks, breads, main dishes, etc., they are rich in flavor, nutrition, and incredibly versatile and available!
Enjoy your "dates"!