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How to cook with date fruits

How to cook with date fruits

Cooking with the date fruit is one of the most ancient ingredients used for thousands of years.

Cooking with dates is easy. North African recipes use Deglet Noor dates as an ingredient for breakfast, lunch, dinner or appetizers and dessert. Often cooking with dates in African recipes, Deglet Noor dates are stuffed with sweet or savory fillings or simply enjoyed on its own.

Dates are the fruit of the date palm, a tree native to Northern Africa. Botanically the date fruit is a berry. It takes about 200 days from pollination for the date to reach full ripening. One medium-size Deglet Noor date has about 44 calories and almost no fat. 

A large portion of the calories in dates food come from sugars. Deglet Noor dates have many nutritional benefits; antioxidants, sodium, cholesterol and fat-free, and being nutrient-dense both fiber and potassium.
Hababauk is the term used for the female flower and the period just after pollination when the young fruit is still creamy white before gradually turning green at the kimri stage.
The date fruit is one of the most ancient crops
Collecting Deglet Noor Dates

Stages of the ripening of a Deglet Noor date:
·        Kimri- Early ripening of the date remaining green

·        Khalal- The date reaches its full size and changes from green to yellow or red in color depending on the variety of date. Weight gain is slow but sucrose content increases. At this stage, dates are still crunchy, like an apple and considered a delicacy.

·        Rutab- Dates decrease in weight due to moisture loss, a mixture of glucose and fructose, browning of the skin and softening of the fruit. The moisture content goes down to about 35% and the dates at this stage are sold as fresh fruit.

·        Tamr- When the dates are left to ripen further. The most traditional way of producing tamr is sun curing and drying usually on mats. However, in some areas of Africa such as Tunisia, the highly sought after Deglet Noor date is cured on the hanging stems remaining intact with the cluster of dates gives a better result than when the dates are stripped off then cured on mats.

Natural Date Fruit Syrup Recipe

Natural Date Fruit Syrup Recipe

1 cup chopped pitted dried dates
2 cups water

Place dates in a large bowl, cover with water and soak 3 hours. Add all ingredients into a blender and blend until a thick syrup forms, add more water if necessary 

More about date fruits and cooking

The date fruit is produced mainly in the hot dry areas of the North African countries of Egypt, Algeria, Sudan and Morocco. Date palm is cultivated in arid and semi-arid regions, which are characterized by long and hot summers, no, or at most low rainfall and very low relative humidity level during the ripening period.

Most of the dates are sold without seeds and around 80% of Deglet Nour are sold in the USA. The seeds are removed by hand or by machine, the methods range from seed removal while ensuring the dates remain whole and their texture is not harmed, to the complete grinding of the product. When seed removal is done by machine, some seeds may remain, and a warning must be included on the packed product.

Pitted pressed dates are pitted by hand or by machine, pressed into a mold and vacuum packed. Packing in this way and with the right amount of moisture preserves the dates without refrigeration. If dates are not preserved correctly microbiological processes or sugar crystallization can occur ruining the date fruit. This product is used mainly as a filling for cakes and biscuits, especially during the Muslim Feast of Holy Ramadan.

Date paste can be used as fillings for cakes and date syrup is used to sweeten drinks, on waffles and pancakes and many other foods such as sauces for chicken or chutney, and cookies, brownies and cakes. Alcoholic drinks are popular by the fermenting natural sugar in date fruits.

Sweet Date Couscous Dessert Recipe

Sweet Date Couscous Dessert Recipe

3/4 cup instant couscous
1/2 cup dried dates, chopped
1/4 cup toasted almonds, chopped
1/4 cup date fruit syrup
1/2 teaspoon orange flower water
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cook couscous according to package directions toss with remaining ingredients, serve warm as a dessert or add milk for a warm cereal breakfast.

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