History confirms that dates are the oldest fruit in the world, revealed by fossil evidence as far back as 50 million years and grew abundantly in an area known as Phoenicia along the Mediterranean, part of which is today Greece.
In earlier times, they were known as the “bread of the desert or cake of the poor”.
Dates are the oldest known cultivated palms and Greek mythology connects the date palm to the immortalized Phoenix bird. As for religion, date honey or date syrup is mentioned in the Torah.
The palms grow in areas of high heat with a water supply in arid desert-like regions.
Dates have offered sustenance to many through the years. When Wilfred Thesiger, a British explorer crossed the largest desert in the middle east known as the ‘empty quarter’, on only the back of camels with his two Bedouins; dates, meat and milk from camels became their major source of food.
Culinary experts state that there are hundreds of different varieties, and colours vary from maroon to red and yellow and many have flavours reminiscent of toffee and caramel.
In terms of one’s health, despite the high sugar content in dates, they are not considered unhealthy as they contain fats and protein, vitamins and minerals. To appease hunger between meals, a combination of dates and nuts can be considered an ideal healthy snack ! The consumption of dates has also been proven to be healthy for one’s bones, possibly preventing the onset of osteoporosis.
Despite the sweetness, dates combine well with savoury foods such as cheese, meat and vegetables and are ideal to include in toffee deserts and Christmas cake.
Delicacies like dates coated with white chocolate, rolled in sesame seeds or stuffed with feta cheese are truly mouth-watering.
With Christmas around the corner, readers can use their imaginations and enhance the table with their own tempting offerings !