In Indonesia date fruits are considered the long sought fruits during the fasting month of ramadhan. When Muslims break fast in the evening meal of Ramadan, it is traditional to eat a date first. Date fruits or in latin known as Phoenix dactylifera, or date palm, is a flowering plant species in the palm family, Arecaceae, cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. Although its place of origin is unknown because of long cultivation, it probably originated from the Fertile Crescent, region straddling between Egypt and Mesopotamia.
A lot of locals in Batam think that Tunisian wet dates use honey or sugar as a glaze so they are shiny. However this is a misconception. Dates can also be dehydrated, ground and mixed with grain to form a nutritious stockfeed.
The sweetness of dates is believed to be a good source of energy without increasing blood sugar levels drastically. Even in the holy Quran, Allah instructs Maryām (the Virgin Mary) to eat dates when she gives birth to Isa (Jesus); and, similarly, they are recommended to pregnant women. However, naturally sweet dates are, of course, different and healthier than the sweetened variety. However, not all dates that were shiny and “wet” had been sweetened.
Dry or soft dates are eaten out-of-hand, or may be pitted and stuffed with fillings such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, candied orange and lemon peel, tahini, marzipan or cream cheese. Pitted dates are also referred to as stoned dates. Partially dried pitted dates may be glazed with glucose syrup for use as a snack food. Dates can also be chopped and used in a range of sweet and savory dishes, from tajines (tagines) in Morocco to puddings, ka’ak (types of Arab cookies) and other dessert items. Date nut bread, a type of cake, is very popular in the United States, especially around holidays.
Dates are also processed into cubes, paste called “‘ajwa”, spread, date syrup or “honey” called “dibs” or “rub” in Libya, powder (date sugar), vinegar or alcohol. Vinegar made from dates is a traditional product of the Middle East. The total annual world production of dates amounts to 8.5 million metric tons, countries of the Middle East and North Africa being the largest producer.
Here are several ways to tell the difference between naturally sweet dates and those that have been sweetened.
Pay attention to sweetness level
Naturally-sweet dates have just enough sweetness, while the sweetened ones tend to be overly sweet. “There is a variant of honey dates from Egypt that is very sweet by nature; however, the sweetness is consistent. Those that are sweetened don’t have the same consistency of sweetness,” Ivan said.
See if they attract ants
One of the basic ways to see whether dates have been sweetened is by placing them on an open counter at room temperature. If the dates attract ants, it means the dates are sweetened. “Boxed dates don’t guarantee the natural sweetness, as sometimes a branded box of dates attracts ants, while the cheaper variants don’t,” Ivan added.
Inner-part sweetness matters
The naturally sweet dates usually have an outer part that is not sweet at all, while the inner part is sweet. Sweetened dates have an unnaturally sweet taste on the outer part.