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.
No Bake Date and Nut Balls Recipe
Only minutes to make – and no baking required.
2 eggs. lightly beaten
1 cup finely chopped pitted dates
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
2 cups toasted rice cereal
1-1/2 cups coconut flakes
Place the eggs, dates, and sugar in a medium-size saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens – about 5 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then stir in the pecans and cereal; let cool for 10 minutes longer.
Meanwhile, spread the coconut on a sheet of wax paper. Roll the cooled candy mixture in the coconut, a teaspoonful at a time, until well covered and shaped into balls. Will keep 2 weeks refrigerated in airtight containers. Yield: 3 dozen.
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!
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.
Fig Food Facts
- One-half cup of figs have as much calcium as a half-cup of milk.
- Figs have more potassium per ounce than bananas. Potassium helps maintain normal blood pressure.
- Figs offer a variety of essential nutrients including iron, magnesium, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, zinc and copper.
- Figs are rich in health promoting antioxidants.
- Figs are the richest source of iron compared to the 20 most frequently consumed fruits.
- Figs have no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium, no gluten and no added sugar.
- Three to five figs contain 5g fiber - more fiber than 2 slices whole wheat bread or an ounce of almonds or a half-cup of broccoli.
- Figs are portable - take them just about anywhere!
- Natural sugars can come to the surface of dried figs, adding a light, sweet crunch. To melt away the sugars, sprinkle with water and microwave for a few seconds.
- Store figs in the refrigerator after opening for optimal freshness.
- Figs have no blossoms. The blossoms are inside the fruit and produce the tiny, crunchy seeds that give figs their unique and highly prized crunch.
- Figs are harvested according to nature's clock, fully ripened and partially dried on the tree.
- Figs naturally hold moisture in baked goods and can be pureed and used as a fat substitute.
- Early Olympic athletes used figs as a training food. Figs were also presented as laurels to Olympic winners.
- According to ancient scholars, figs are restorative. They increase the strength of young people, preserve the elderly in better health and make them look younger with fewer wrinkles.
- Figs first appeared in commercial products in 1892 in Fig Newtons.
- 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.
- Figs are a rich source of calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin B6, and potassium. Figs are low in fat and high in fiber. They provide more fiber than any other common fruit or vegetable.
- 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.
- To make chopping and slicing figs easier, run your knife under hot water when it gets sticky. You can also spray the knife lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
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.
Resources: The Whole Foods Encyclopedia, Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia.
Tasty Treats with Figs
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.
- Stuff figs with a toasted almond or crystallized ginger and dip in chocolate. An easy and elegant dessert.
- Use fig puree as a great fat substitute in baking. Puree together 2 cups figs, 1/2-cup water and 2-teaspoons vanilla until smooth. Use in place of half the fat in moist, soft and chewy baked goods recipes.
- Chop figs, mix with walnuts and sprinkle on hot and cold cereals or green salads. The perfect breakfast rich in fiber and heart-healthy omega-3 oils.
- Substitute 3 to 5 figs for high-calorie snacks like candy bars and chips.
- Add figs to vegetarian diets. Quarter and stir into herbed lentils; slice and layer on pizza with caramelized onions and fresh basil; coarsely chop and toss with whole grain pasta, olive oil and garlic.
- Add diced, moist figs to cooked brown rice, couscous or pilaf.
- Add sliced figs, golden Calimyrnas and dark Missions to Waldorf salad for a sensational fruit salad.
- Make a tiny slit in the fig and add your favorite cheese. Sprinkle with fresh thyme and cracked pepper; serve as an appetizer.
Place figs in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, over moderate heat 15 to 20 minutes. For a tangy variation add orange or lemon slices to water before cooking. Serve warm or chilled. Store in refrigerator.
Microwave method: Combine 1-cup figs and 1/2-cup water; cover. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. Stir and let stand 2 minutes.
Trim off stems. Slice open one side of each fig. Stuff with small piece of Brie or Camembert cheese and fresh rosemary leaves. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Place cheese side up in baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 7 minutes or until hot.
Bacon Wrapped Goat Cheese Figs with Snakebite Glaze
Bake bacon at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until bacon is cooked, but not crisp. Cut strips in half. Trim fig stems. Cut an "X" in stem end of fig three-quarters of the way to the bottom. Stuff with small ball of goat or blue cheese. Wrap with bacon and fasten with toothpick. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, or until bacon starts to crisp. Combine maple syrup with cayenne pepper to taste. Brush over stuffed figs. Serve warm.
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 have soft, thin skins and tiny crunchy seeds. 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.
Notes 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.
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.
Did you know?
The first week of November is National Fig Week.
Share This Page