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.
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.
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.
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