Edition Food Provisions Vol. 26 No. 04

The Significance of Eating Dates During Ramadan

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Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, starts at sundown on April 2 and ends with Eid al-Fitr on May 2.  The dates change each year based on the lunar calendar. Ramadan commemorates the period when the archangel Gabriel descended from heaven to reveal a message from God to the Prophet Muhammed, Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH) This message became the basis of the Quran, the Holy Scripture of Muslim.

Ramadan marks a sacred time of reflection, prayer, charity, and fasting. Throughout the month, those of the Muslim faith must fast from sunrise to sunset – no food or drink, including water. After sundown, families, and friends gather to break fast over a meal known as Iftar.

Medjool Dates are consumed with water to break fast during Ramadan (Deposit Photos)

Traditionally, sweet Medjool dates, known as “the king of dates,” are served with a glass of water to break the fast before the meal, in reverence to the teaching of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), who said, “When one of you is fasting, he should break his fast with dates, but if he cannot get any, then break his fast with water, for water is purifying.”

On a practical note, dates are a reliable source of vitamins A, B6, and K, iron, magnesium, copper, and potassium, as well as dietary fiber. Finally, the natural sugar found in dates provides restorative energy, essential after fasting all day.

Dates have a historic role in the cuisines of many Islamic countries. Their significance in the Arabic world has earned the palm date and its traditions recognition in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity which writes, “The date palm, knowledge, skills, traditions and practices have played a pivotal role in strengthening the connection between people and the land in the Arab region, helping them face the challenges of the harsh desert environment.”

Ripe dates on the tree (Deposit Photos)

Dates and date syrup offer a natural sweetener and are versatile enough to use in many recipes, savory to sweet. A personal favorite is adding chopped dates to a mesclun salad with fresh slices of apples or oranges and slivered almonds. Another is stuffing dates halves with nut butter or creamy cashew cheese (vegan).

Check out the Lamb and Date Tagine dish under ‘recipes’ in this issue.

Dates stuffed with peanut butter and pistachios on a white background. (Deposit Photos)

10 Facts About Dates

Joolies provided these facts; a family-owned California USDA certified organic Medjool date farm (wholesale and retail). www.joolies.com @jooliesdates

  • Dates are considered the oldest cultivated fruit in the world, tracing back to 6000 B.C.
  • The word “date” is derived from the Greek word for “finger” (dáktulos), a nod to its elongated shape.
  • Date palms were a symbol of victory in the Roman empire.
  • In Morocco, the softer and sweeter Medjool dates were reserved only for the royalty and guests earning them the moniker “king of dates.”
  • Date palms can grow to 75 feet tall,
  • One date tree can produce 200 to 300 pounds (roughly 10,000 dates) in one harvest season,
  • Medjool dates have delicate skin and must be harvested by hand.
  • Dates are cultivated around the world in tropic and semi-tropical areas.
  • California grows ninety-five percent of Medjool dates in the United States.
  • Dates are considered a fresh fruit, not dried.

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An engaging speaker and writer, Melanie Young hosts the weekly national radio shows, The Connected Table Live, featuring conversations with global thought leaders in wine, food, spirits and hospitality (a Feedspot Top 10 Food & Drink Podcasts for 2021), and Fearless Fabulous You, a lifestyle show for and about women (both on iHeart and more than 30 other podcast platforms). Young has contributed articles on wine, spirits, food, and culinary travel to Wine Enthusiast, Seven Fifty Daily, Wine4Food and Jewish Week. She is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, Wine Media Guild, and Women of the Vine & Spirits. Young’s former marketing and events agency, M Young Communications, worked with global wine, food organizations, publishing companies and nonprofits. She had an integral role in the creation, launch and management of The James Beard Foundation Awards, New York Restaurant Week, and Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund (2001) which raised funds to provide for the families of restaurant workers killed in the September 11th terrorist attacks. www.theconnectedtable.com www.melanieyoung.com Instagram @theconnectedtable

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