Barhi Dates: To Date or Not to Date

I know what you’re thinking. To date or not to date. You’re picturing a candlelit dinner with romantic music playing in the background and a well dressed, slightly nervous couple conversing quietly. You’re thinking this article is going to give you relationship advice. As intriguing as that topic may be, that is not the topic of this article. No, the dates in question here are very different. These dates, date fruit to be precise, are edible. 


What is a Date Anyways?

Dates, like many other foreign foods, have recently resurged in the food and agricultural industry, especially when it comes to healthy foods. People are discovering the health benefits of fruits such as pomegranates, mangoes, avocados, figs, dragonfruit, and making use of them in countless ways. However, often these foods are not well known to the general public. One of these foods is that peculiar food that we mistook for a romantic outing earlier. The date fruit. What exactly is a date, you might ask? 

First and foremost, it is a stone fruit, so, similar to mangoes, peaches, avocados or olives, it has one seed (or pit) in the center. The date fruit (Phoenix Dactylifera) is never alone. In fact, one might call it very social. It grows in clusters of hundreds on the date palm tree in Northern Africa, the Middle East, Mexico and in several parts of the U.S., including California (1). Though there are hundreds of date varieties grown, the most popular kinds to farm in the U.S. are the Medjool and the Deglet Noor varieties due to their especially sweet flavor and soft texture. These kinds are often dried like apricots, raisins, cranberries, etc., and are enjoyed most frequently as dried fruit or pureed in a nut-butter. They can also be used in baked goods and other recipes. A typical date fruit is about an inch long and half an inch wide. It is rather unique in appearance with its dark caramel-brown, glossy skin which tends to be wrinkly when dried. What do they taste like, though? 

Dates in a bowl

What Do Dates Taste Like?

How to describe the flavor of a date? Upon trying one, you’re presented with the soft, sweet flesh of the date. Though dried, it’s not completely without moisture, and when it comes to texture, it resembles that of a soft toffee candy. The flavor is not sour or tangy, but sweet. If caramelized honey with a touch of fruitiness could be combined into one delectable ingredient, the date would be it. One could say the date is a tiny package of unexpected sweetness and depth of flavor and what’s more, it’s good for you! Not only can you enjoy this fruit as you would any other treat, but you can know that it is healthy. In fact there are several huge health benefits to eating them. What more can one ask for? In addition to being absolutely delicious, the date fruit is healthy! 

Where are Dates Grown?

Before getting into those health benefits, however, let’s look at where these curious foods came from and what their history looks like. As I mentioned above, dates are grown today in Northern Africa, the Middle East, Mexico and California but they primarily originated in the Middle East. The climate of the fertile crescent in the Middle East provides ideal growing conditions for the dates, where they can receive full sun, and the perfect amount of humidity. It is known to have been harvested in these areas around 4000 B.C. though it is likely to have been harvested previously as well (2). The date was particularly important to the Jewish and Islamic cultures as well as the surrounding cultures. It was a primary food for survival and harvesting them meant you could trade them. Individual lives depended a great deal on the fruit for its nutrition, accessibility, portability and sweetness. In the arid, hot climate of Mesopotamia, Palestine, and Egypt, the date fruit was an exceptional means of sustenance. The fact that it could be easily dried and carried made it all the more practical, and because of this, the nations that farmed dates benefited economically. The palm tree, specifically the date palm, was central to Islamic countries’ economies and the date fruit often appears in the Quran. Now in modern day North America, the symbol of the palm tree often represents Islam (3). To Jewish cultures, the date palm was religiously and culturally significant because it is from dates that the ‘honey’ of the Promised Land was made. A syrup called Silan was extracted from the date fruit and many believe that when God promised to bring his chosen people into the ‘land flowing with milk and honey’, the honey meant Silan (2). Dates were significant religiously, culturally and economically in the Ancient Middle East, but they are even more prevalent in today’s society.

How did the date palm arrive in America? It was brought to America in the early twentieth century by an agricultural explorer by the name of Walter Swingle (5). He was given the task of exploring other countries for new agricultural foods and he brought back the two popular varieties of dates that we are familiar with today, Medjool and the Deglet Noor. Farmers began to grow the date palm tree in Southern California, Arizona and Florida. The fruit became especially popular in 1940 during WWII due to its natural sweetness and nutritional value. Even today, people are coming to appreciate and enjoy its delicious flavor and health benefits. 

Walter T Swingle

How is Date Fruit Grown and Harvested?

The date palm tree takes several years to grow and be able to produce fruit. It grows to be a very tall tree, often over twenty feet, and can hold up to 300 pounds of fruit. Because male and female flowers grow on separate trees, the pollination process is a little more challenging and farmers are careful to include both male and female trees in their orchards. The date fruit grows in a cluster, appearing on the tree in early spring and takes several months to ripen, and is usually harvested in August or September. 

Let's Talk Benefits

So what are the health benefits of this peculiar fruit? Are they really that beneficial for you? Yes, they are! It is a fact. They are full of nutrients, including carbohydrates, fiber, protein, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, B and K vitamins and they have no fat. They are very high in fiber, so high that only a small handful of them can provide you with the daily portion of fiber that is necessary. Fiber is crucial because it promotes digestion and regular bowel movement. Dates are also high in antioxidants which is beneficial because of their health properties. Antioxidants can prevent several illnesses caused by oxidative stress, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, asthma, and others (4)(6)(7). A study also shows that dates prevent heart disease and help lower cholesterol (6). This randomized control study was performed on two groups of people where one group consumed a few dates a day over four months and the other avoided dates completely. Those who ate a few dates a day were shown to have lower cholesterol than the other group. Another rather surprising benefit of eating dates is that they are believed to help induce childbirth (8). Because dates are high in fiber, carbohydrates, and sugars, they provide a lot of energy, which is necessary for a mother during childbirth and a study shows that these special fruits can not only induce natural labor, they can shorten the labor. Among all of these health benefits, the fact that dates are naturally sweet and simple to add to your diet makes them all the more appealing. 

Adding Dates to Your Diet

What exactly can you do with dates though? How can you use them? It’s one thing to acknowledge that a food is beneficial, it’s another to branch out and find ways to incorporate it into your diet in unique ways. Purchasing dates is all well and good, but what is the next step?

One classic and delicious appetizer is the bacon-wrapped date. Simply remove the pit, fill the date with goat cheese, wrap it in bacon, cover with a maple, balsamic glaze and bake. It is a simple starter to make that would impress your friends and family, achieving the perfect sweet and salty balance. Another simple appetizer is the stuffed date, a no-bake, sweet and savory, healthy snack. You only need goat cheese, your choice of nuts (such as pistachios, walnuts, almonds), smoked paprika, salt and pepper and honey. You can make sugarless brownies, or  healthy energy bars. You could add them to your morning smoothie as a natural sweetener or make a sugarless milk shake. You can make almond butter or peanut butter using dates. You can make cookies, bread, oatmeal bars, or desert stuffed dates. Really, the possibilities are endless. There are countless delicious recipes involving dates and there are many ways to add them to your everyday diet. 

Stuffed Dates

So when it comes to the question of whether to date or not to date, the answer should be easy. Dates, aside from being a pleasant, romantic outing, are rather wonderful. They are a source of natural sweetness, easy to enjoy, full of nutrition, a great ingredient to add to recipes, and are a fantastic food to incorporate into your diet. 



1. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "date palm". Encyclopedia Britannica, 30 Aug. 2022, Accessed 19 November 2022.

2. Oxender, Bethany. “Dates: An Ancient Fruit Rediscovered”. October 30, 2019.

3. Lunde, Paul. “A History of Dates”. Aramco World Magazine, Vol. 29, No. 2, April 1978.

4. Elliott, Brianna. “8 Proven Health Benefits of Dates”. October 12, 2022.

5. Kayal, Michele. “Dates: The Sticky History of a Sweet Fruit”. June 18, 2015.

6. Alalwan, Tariq A et al. “Effects of Daily Low-Dose Date Consumption on Glycemic Control, Lipid Profile, and Quality of Life in Adults with Pre- and Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Nutrients vol. 12,1 217. 15 Jan. 2020, doi:10.3390/nu12010217.

7. Nagdeve, Meenakshi. “12 Proven Health Benefits of Dates”. May 26, 2021.

8. Bagherzadeh Karimi, Alireza et al. “Effects of date fruit (Phoenix dactylifera L.) on labor and delivery outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” BMC pregnancy and childbirth vol. 20,1 210. 14 Apr. 2020, doi:10.1186/s12884-020-02915-x.


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