Dates (Phoenix dactylifera) are the fruit of a date palm, and member of the Palmaceae (Palm) Family. The genus name, Theorists gave phoenix, perhaps in reference to the mythological phoenix that rises from the ashes, as the date has its roots in the water and its head in the heat of the sky. The species name, dactylifera means fingers, which the dates resemble. Dates are native to the Persian Gulf area. They can grow in clusters of up to 200 dates, weighing up to 25 pounds. The date palm is considered a symbol of fertility.
Dates are warm, sweet, moistening, strengthening, spleen tonic, and blood tonic, energy tonic, yang tonic, and laxative. They are easy to digest and have been used to treat anemia, bronchitis, catarrh, colitis, dry cough, low blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, hysteria, nervousness, palpitations, weak stomach, sore throat, and stomach ulcers. They are recommended to encourage milk production in nursing mothers. In India, date water is used to relieve intoxication.
Dates are high in carbohydrates, glutamic acid, tyramine, niacin, boron, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium, and fiber. Dates are naturally low in water and do not usually require drying after being harvested. However, dates are sometimes fumigated with chemicals, pasteurized, frozen or preserved with glucose to discourage mold, so investigate your sources. Medjools are very hybridized.
Good dates are somewhat moist. They can sometimes be infested with insects. Dates should ideally be refrigerated as they can ferment at room temperature. Enjoy dates by themselves, as a natural sweetener. Dates are delightfully delicious on their own and used as a natural sweetener to make raw food desserts such as ice cream, puddings, cakes, cookies and pies. They are also used to make chutneys, jams, or added to cereals. My favorite, which I learned from David Wolfe, is to stuff a date with raw almond butter. With this trick, I was able to give up chocolate easily! Dates are a great transition food, for those leaving behind sugar and junk food.
Those prone to migraines, obesity, diabetes and hypoglycemic should limit their intake. Be sure to brush your teeth or rinse your mouth after enjoying dates, as their stickiness clings to the teeth. The date palm is used in making shelter, baskets, mats, rope and an Arab proverb is there are as many uses for the date palm as days in the calendar.