Dates: A look at International Foods

May 16, 2017

Our diversity of ethnicities, cultures, and faiths are among the countless reasons we are so fortunate to be Canadian. Associated with this vast melting pot are different foods to experience and appreciate, many with a history.

In the ninth month, of the twelve-month Islamic calendar, our Muslim neighbors partake in a period of prayer known as Ramadan.  It is a time of holy significance when the first verses of The Qur’an (the most sacred religious text of Islam) were delivered to The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, during Layla Al-Qadr. Ramadan is marked by personal accountability, charity, and fasting that ends with the Islamic holiday of Eid-a-Fitr.

The fasting involves no drink or food during daylight hours, that can result in low blood sugar, fatigue, and headache, so care must be taken to break the fast. As did The Prophet Muhammad, the tradition is to end the day by consuming dates, making them a traditional favorite food, especially during Ramadan.
Ramadan dates 3

Dates are the fruit of a flowering palm plant that is five to eight years old and can produce approximately 20 pounds per tree. Farmed in the Middle East for thousands of years, there are seven varieties of dates, classified as soft, semi-soft and dry. The most popular of the semi-soft variety are the “Deglet Noor” dates, also known as the “Queen of dates” or the “Date of Light” with a translucent amber to light red color with firm flesh and a honey taste that is not too sweet, preferred by Chefs, both professional and casual.
Ramadan dates 2

They are an incredible source of minerals (calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sulfur and zinc), and vitamins (A, B6, K, folate, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin), sugar, fiber, and carbohydrates. Dates are slow to absorb, making them an excellent choice for the body in fasting.  Additional benefits include muscle development, digestive health and they can be an anti-inflammatory.

Available fresh, pitted, in syrup and as a paste, they are very versatile. Consume dates whole, or use in baking, as a spread, chopped and added to salads and in wraps, or pureed for use in sauces, tagine’s or even added to a nutritious smoothie.
Ramadan dates 1

Calgary Co-op offers the great Dat’cha brand of dates from Tunisia, in stock at all stores for Ramadan.

- Joe Black

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