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The date fruit is extremely nutritious and held in great esteem since ancient times. It is cylindrical in shape, constitutes a fleshy pericarp surrounding a single seed, and comprises 60 to 70 per cent sugar.
You will find black and reddish brown dates in the market, in both fresh as well as dried forms.
Wash the date fruit, cut it in half vertically, remove the seed and chop the flesh finely or coarsely. It is a great addition to salads.
Wash the dates and slice them vertically to garnish cakes, custard or any other dessert. Try chilling the dates before slicing, as it makes the job much easier!
How to Select
• If buying fresh dates, select those that are smooth-skinned, glossy and plump.
• Avoid dates that are broken, cracked, dried, shrivelled or sour-smelling. Also stay away from those that have hardened sugar crystals on their skin.
• The sticky surface of dates attracts dust and impurities, hence buy well-packaged dates, or from closed bulk bins. In any case, wash well before use.
• Dates are available with seeds as well as without. Choose as per your convenience.
• If buying dried dates, then choose a good brand and pack size. Pick between seeded and deseeded varieties.
• Dates are great on their own, but for an extra-special treat, try stuffing them with whole almonds or chopped pieces of walnuts or pecans. For a spicy twist, tuck in a piece of crystallised gingerroot.
• Adding dates to home-baked breads, cakes, muffins and cookies adds richness and nutrition to otherwise ordinary recipes. And the natural moisture of dates adds to the quality of the final product.
• Dates work well in fruit compotes, salads and desserts.
• Chopped or slivered, dates can even be sprinkled on rice and vegetable dishes.
• Dates can be stuffed with soft cheese, almonds and other fillings to serve as savoury snacks.
• Milk boiled with fresh dates is an excellent drink for children.
• Or, you make a delectable milkshake by combining dates or its syrup with chilled milk and vanilla ice-cream. Garnish it with chopped dates for that extra punch!
• The crispness, coolness and honey-like sweetness of dates, when combined with roasted almonds and cashew nuts, results in a wonderful Khajur Pak, an Indian dessert with a nutty and caramelised flavour.
• Khajur Imli Chutney, made with dates and tamarind, is an essential ingredient for chaats.
• Since dates contain a lot of sugar, they will satisfy the sweet tooth, but thanks to their fibre content and nutrient profile, they won’t harm your diet regime. So they are a handy snack to carry in your handbag.
How to Store
• Fresh dates should be refrigerated in tightly-sealed containers; they will stay good for up to eight months. If stored in the kitchen cabinet, they will remain fresh for about a month.
• If dates dry out, they can be plumped up with a little warm water, fruit juice, or for fancier dishes, your favourite liqueur.
• Avoid storing dates near strongly flavoured items like garlic, as dates tend to absorb odours.
• Dried dates keep for up to a year in the refrigerator.
• Dates provide natural sugar in the form of glucose and fructose. Added to the fact that they are very easy to digest, dates are a wonderful source of energy.
• Loaded with both soluble and insoluble fibre, dates are very filling, and keep your bowel habits regular as they have laxative effect. They can be taken raw, or soaked overnight and made into fine syrup.
• Dates is also said to strengthen the heart.
• They are an excellent source of potassium and provide numerous other important vitamins and minerals. Quite a powerhouse packed in a tiny, portable package that can be easily carried in your handbag!
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