Dates or Balah (in Arabic) are palm berries rich in protein, vitamins A & B, dietary fibers, potassium and good carbohydrates. They are so nutritious that the desert Bedouins are known to use the dried ones as their survival food in dry desert areas.
This ancient tree undergoes four versatile stages of maturity. The first stage or kimri produces a green and hard texture that can be used for pickles and chutney. Afterwards is khalal, whereby the fruit changes into a yellow color, ideal for making jam, butter and compotes. Thus, as it becomes softer and purple, the harvesting stage or rutab begins, making way for the preparation of date bars, date paste and preserves or for raw consumption. At the final stage, being tamer, the fruit transforms into a darker shade of brown or black, softer with a wrinkled exterior, and a very sweet flavor, which can be eaten fresh or sun-dried for longer shelf-life.
In this holy month of Ramadan, a gourmet of date products line all the markets African and Middle Eastern countries to provide faithful followers with the traditional “fast breaker”, as the Prophet Muhammed had done before the sunset prayer and Iftar. Fresh and dried dates are also valuable in the banquets as ingredients in preparing meat casseroles, desserts and sweet porridges to be served to family and close friends, as well as a gift idea for the impoverished.
Whilst to improve indigestion, nutritionists recommend a few doses of dates to induce the intestinal flow. It is not known as The Desert Fruit for nothing if it does not yield such clever results.