Dates and Fig Food Facts
Date production in the world is only confined to a small number of countries, most of them being the Arab countries. However, the date industry in the Arab world is not yet fully developed and concerted efforts are still needed to fully utilize the tremendous potential of date substances as ingredients in processed foods for export and the local market.
About Those Dates
Dates are considered a delicious addition to confectioneries and food around the world. Palestinians make excellent cookies with dates. Afghans add dates and figs to their cakes.
Here in the U.S., dates are added to pudding, breads, spreads, and even sparkling date juices.
Date pectin, dietary fiber and syrup are some of the date substances which can find a plethora of applications as a thickener or gelling agent in processed foods, i.e., confectionery products, jams, table jellies, soft cheeses, yogurts, etc.
Dates are one of the sweetest fruits and may contain up to 70 percent sugar. California and Arizona are the major suppliers for the United States, however, Africa and the Middle East have been growing them for 4000 years.
Quick Date Facts
- A date cluster can weigh up to 25 pounds.
- A date supplies 250 percent more potassium than an orange and 64 percent more than a banana ounce for ounce.
- The look, feel and taste of date depends largely on the glucose, fructose and sucrose content within.
A busy day can get in the way of eating right, so finding healthy snacks is essential. Enter Medjool dates! One Medjool date is packed with 16 vitamins and minerals, plus they are a good source of dietary fiber. .
Sweet Summer Treat
Date Milkshake: Simmer 1/2 cup chopped dates in 1 cup water until soft; drain and cool. Blend with 1 pint vanilla frozen yogurt, 1/4 cup buttermilk and 2 teaspoons lemon juice.
At a low 23 calories each, dates are rich and luscious; the addition of blue cheese, nuts and prosciutto makes them absolutely decadent in flavor.
3 dates, stone removed
1/2 teaspoons blue cheese
3 pecan halves, lightly toasted or spiced
Cut open the dates and fill each cavity with 1/2 teaspoon blue cheese and a pecan half and then re-form into original shape. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to overnight. Allow to come to room temperature before serving.
Nutrition Facts: Calories: 101; Fat: 2.9g; Saturated Fat: 0.9g; Cholesterol: 3mg; Sodium: 59mg; Carbohydrates: 19.1g; Dietary Fiber: 2.2g; Protein: 1.7g
Cheese Stuffed Dates for One
Cream cheese softens the sweetness of the rich dates.
1 tablespoon cream cheese
Freshly grated zest of 1/4 orange
3 Medjool dates, pitted
Place the cream cheese and orange zest in a small bowl and mix together. Divide into 3 portions and stuff inside each date. Eat or cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
Nutrition Facts: Calories: 105; Fat: 3.6g; Saturated Fat: 2.2g; Cholesterol: 11mg; Sodium: 30mg; Carbohydrates: 18.9g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Protein: 1.4g
Malted Date Shake
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup nonfat milk
3 tablespoons malt powder
1-1/2 cups non-fat vanilla frozen yogurt
Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Serves 2.
Date Fruit Pie
This pie from the book The Campbell Plan, is made without eggs, butter, refined flour, or added sugar. The deliciousness is all plant based.
In food processor at high speed, blend 1-1/2 cups walnuts, 1 cup pitted dates, 1/2 cup shredded coconut, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon until paste forms. Press into tart pan and chill. Arrange 1/2 cup each blueberries, blackberries, sliced strawberries, sliced kiwifruit and / or sliced mangoes on top of crust. Chill one hour. Serves 8.
Nutrition information per serving: 228 calories, 4g protein, 26g carbs, 5g fiber, 19g sugars, 14g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 2mg sodium.
Figs are one of the oldest known fruits. Ninety percent of all figs grown are dried. The most popular fig is the Calimyrna. (There are over 150 varieties). Size is not an indicator of the quality.
Figs are thought to be originally from small Asia and are one of the first fruits cultivated ever. It has been said throughout time, that humans could live on Figs alone as a source of food!
Figs are uniquely pollinated by small fig wasps.
For the most antioxidants, choose fully ripened figs; research conducted at the University of Innsbruck in Austria suggests that as they ripen, almost to the point of spoilage, antioxidant levels actually increase.
Fresh figs are very delicate and perishable. Because of this, the majority of figs are dried. When purchasing dried figs, make sure that they are still relatively soft, free of mold, and have a mellow, pleasant smell. Dried figs are available throughout the year.
Sulfites are used to help preserve dried figs. Sulfites can cause adverse reactions in an estimated one out of every 100 people. The Federal Food and Drug Administration estimates that 5 percent of asthmatics may suffer a reaction when exposed to sulfites.
Keep ripe figs in the refrigerator where they will stay fresh for about two days. Since figs can easily bruise, store them on a paper towel lined plate or in a shallow container.
Figs have many health benefits. Fresh and dry figs are high in pectin, a soluble fiber that can reduce blood cholesterol.
The fruit is also believed to have a laxative effect and can aid those who suffer from chronic constipation.
The soluble fiber contained in figs can help people cut down on snacking because it causes nutrients to be absorbed more slowly, making people feel more satisfied after a meal. However, it should be remembered that Figs are high in calories.
Resources: The Whole Foods Encyclopedia, Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia.
Fig and Port Milkshake Recipe
Simmer 1 cup port and 1/3 cup chopped dried figs until the liquid is reduced by half; cool, then blend with 1 tablespoon port.
Different fig varieties, including Mission and Calimyrna figs, are used to make fig pastes ranging in color and consistency.
Calimyrna figs require a unique type of pollination by the tiny Blastophaga wasp. This process was first successfully completed in California by George Roeding, who hand-pollinated figs brought from Smyrna, Turkey. When the trees produced ripened figs in 1900, he combined the words, Smyrna and California to rename the figs Calimyrna.
Mission figs grow in two crops per year. The first crop in late June is used for fresh figs, and the second follows later in summer at the same time as many other fig varieties.
The second Mission crop is dried for consumer packages of figs and industrially used for fig paste.
Make Vanilla Milkshakes: Blend 1-pint low fat vanilla ice cream, 1/4 cup milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt.
Layer the vanilla milkshake mixture in a soda fountain glass with the port mixture.
Note of Caution
Fresh figs are very perishable. Once dried, figs are easy to transport and can last for months. Eat as snacks or dessert by themselves, or use in baking and other dishes.
Did you know?
The first week of November is National Fig Week.
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