The date (Phoenix dactylifera) is one of the
most nourishing fruits and it is a food of great importance. Because of
its importance, it is also called the bread of Sahara. But its use is now
universal. It is included in the categories of both dry and fresh fruit.
The date is a cylindrical fruit of yellow to reddish brown color. it has
fleshy pericarp surrounding a single seed containing 60 to 70 percent
sugar. The tree-ripe fresh date is a very delicious fruit. It, however,
undergoes fermentation very rapidly. It is therefore, dried in the sun.
The fruit looses about 35 percent of its weight in the process of drying.
The date is held in high esteem from ancient
times and is one of the earliest fruits cultivated by man. In Mesopotamia,
more then 5,000 years old bricks have been found to contain instructions
for growing date palms. The ancient monuments of Egypt have been found to
contain carved figures of date palms. There are numerous references to the
palm and its fruit in the Bible, testifying to its manifold virtues.
Prophet Mohammed believed that the first date palm was made from the
tempered dust which remained after the formation of Adam.
The original home of date is believed to be
in the Persian Gulf area or in Mesopotamia. It is now classed as one of
the standard crops of world agriculture and is widely grown in Saudi
Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Spain, Italy, China and USA.
The date is a food of high nutritional
value. It provides natural sugar in the form of glucose and fructose. This
sugar is ready for immediate absorption and is, therefore, infinitely
superior to cane-sugar. It is usually taken raw or with milk, which makes
it highly nutritious in most respects. Taking it with curdled milk is also
common. In Sahara, rich people take it with butter by removing the seed
and filling the cavity with butter. It is a scientific way of taking fat.
It is also taken in several cooked forms. The seeds of the fruit, roasted
and ground into powder makes a beverage like coffee, called 'date coffee'.
The date palm yields a sweet juice of high food value. It can be taken
fresh with great advantage or make into a tasty country sugar. The juice
can also be allowed to ferment and made into alcohol.