Although in western industrialized countries dates enjoy little popularity, in Middle Eastern and North African countries they are the fruit of preference.
Dates originated in southern Iran and have been cultivated for at least 7000 years.
Date palms grow up to 30 meters in height, and bear huge bunches that weigh up to 22 Kgs. or more. There are approximately 1000 dates in a bunch, or a total of 8000 (130 – 150 Kgs.) per tree.
The productive life of date palms is approximately 80 years, but in most commercial plantations trees are replaced after 60 years. The yield starts to decrease with age.
Date palms require at least 100 days of 40 C heat, and a lot of water to yield tasty fruit.
Sumerians and Babylonians regarded dates as sacred, and the first fruit Israelites ate after their return from slavery in Egypt were dates. Even today, Arab shepherds and nomads subsist for long periods on dates, washed down with camel, goat’s or ewe’s milk.
were among the Prophet’s favourites foods, and during Ramadan, people like to break their fast with dates.
Dates are high in potassium like bananas and can be dried, eaten fresh, or frozen.
There are 2000 varieties of dates, the most important of which are: medjool, barhi, deglet, noor, zahisi, khadrawi, thoory, dayri and khalsa.
There are four stages of ripeness of dates: kimri (unripe), khalal (full size, crunchy), rutab (ripe) and tamir (ripe sun dried).
Total world date production is approximately 6.7 million metric tons, with Egypt over one million tons, followed by Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Algeria, Sudan, Oman, Libya, Tunisia and Iraq.
Iraq’s production has been declining since 2003.
In the U. S. A., Coachella Valley (California) is the leading producer, followed by Arizona.
Dates are eaten fresh, dried, pitted and stuffed with almonds or walnuts, used in pastries, dipped in chocolate, or frozen.
Many North African countries use dates as an ingredient in roast lamb and chicken.
Chicken and Medjool Date Potstickers
Yield 2 DOZEN POTSTICKERS
24 pot sticker wraps
16 oz. ground chicken
12ea. Medjool Dates, roughly chopped
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
2 tsp sesame oil
2-3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 cup beaten egg whites
1 egg yolk
Heat a wok or large sauté pan over high heat. Add sesame oil, and working quickly, add dates, garlic, ginger, scallions, soy sauce, and sugar. Cook for 10 seconds. Add to chicken. Cool mixture. Add egg yolk and mix well.
Lay pot sticker wraps on work surface and brush with egg whites.
Spoon about a tablespoon of chicken mixture in the center of each wrapper. Fold over to make a half moon. Crimp edges with your forefinger and thumb. Steam or boil until tender and cool. When ready to serve, fry in canola oil on both sides until golden brown.