The Arabs "Love Affair" with Dates & Recipes to Spice Up your Ramadan
By: Menal Maliki / Arab America Contributing Writer
Dates: The Fruit of Heaven
Dates are significant in the Arab world and its obsession is evident as its presence is in every aspect of their culture such as their cusinine, norms, and values. The Arabs have this “love affair with dates,” because it is considered one of the many fruits of paradise alongside grapes, pomegranate, and figs.
Dates are at the heart of Arab hospitality and in all Arab household dates are served to guests along with coffee or tea. Serving dates is not only the customary habit of Arabs but it is also testimony of faith and an introduction to their culture. This fleshy fruit is a staple in Middle Eastern culture, it symbolizes Arab values of gratitude and generosity. The date tree has even inspired the architecture of columns in the Arab world. The consumption of dates in the Arab region goes back 6,000 years but dates have existed on earth for more than 50 million years. It is estimated that there are over 250 varieties of dates, with dates growing in many parts of the world.
The dates have a long history and it was source of sustenance for Bedouin tribes in the harsh desert climate. The date palm was referred to the king of the oasis and the tree of life. Bedouins were able to survive days in the desert with only dates because of its nutritional value.
“Dates boast many vital nutrients, plus they are fat-free, cholesterol-free, and sodium-free. They contain vitamin A and numerous B-complex vitamins necessary for building healthy body tissue and muscle. Dates also contain many minerals, including magnesium, iron, phosphorous, copper, calcium and potassium.” (Madeeha Ahmed)
Biting into the date’s flesh is satisfying as your mouth is filled with a burst of sweetness (syrup) that is moist, chewy and delicious, resembling a gummy. Popular dishes are made from dates for example, Madluka, an Omani dessert made with ghee, dates, and sesame seeds, as well as maamoul, an Arabian cookie stuffed with a date filling.
“There is among the trees, one which is blessed – it is the date palm, for it was created from the earth left over from the creation of Adam.” Prophet Muhammed (SAW)
Besides its cultural value, dates also have a religious and spiritual one. Dates remain important in parts of the Middle East, Africa, and Asia because of Islam. The date palm is mentioned 22 times in the Quran, more than any other fruit. It is during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims are required to break their fast with dates since they are “rich in natural sugars,” and after a long day of fasting this is the perfect remedy to restore your body’s normal blood level sugar and rebalance your system. It is also used for losing weight because it leaves you fuller for longer since it slows digestion because of its high carbohydrate content. It was the favorite fruit of the Prophet Muhammed who recommended to cure ailments. Dates were also advised to be a good remedy for poison and witchcraft and eating 8 a day will keep the witches away. It was also believed that the virgin Mary was instructed to eat dates while giving birth to Jesus to relieve her of her pain.
Below are date orientated recipes that are tasty, natural, and will spice up your Ramadan.
This milk recipe only requires a few ingredients and you can be used to spice up any drink. Make this amazing date milk recipe to quench your thirst, to enjoy on its own, with your morning brew of coffee or afternoon tea.
- 1/4 carnation milk * I used carnation milk if you don’t like the flavor and want a healthier alternative you can easily swap it out and add more of the milk alternative*
- 1/2 cup Regular milk or Almond Milk
- 4-5 dates *depending on how sweet you want it 🙂
- 3 cardamon seeds
- 1 pinch of cinnamon
- Remove the pit from the dates.
- Blend all the ingredients in a blender for a few minutes, making sure everything is combined. If you want the milk to be thinner add more milk and if you want it thicker add more dates.
- After blending, strain the milk and add ice. Bon Appétit, you can now serve it with espresso or tea or drink it on its own.
- 5- 6 dates
- 1 banana
- 1 cup Milk
- 1/2 yogurt
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 2-3 tablespoons honey (optional)
- Blend all the ingredients into a blender for a couple minutes.
- Once blended serve immediately while it’s still cold.
Date paste is a staple in every household. It is simple to make and it is also versatile. The paste can be stored for 3 months in the refrigerator and whenever you’re in the mood for it spread it on toast, pancakes, to your liking. It can also be used for middle eastern desserts such as mamool. All you need is two ingredients water and dates, lets start making!
*This recipe makes 2 cups of date paste*
- 18- 20 Dates
- 4 cups of Water
- Bring 4 cups of water to a simmer and remove the pot from the heat.
- Place dates into a 4 cup glass measuring cup and cover with hot water. Let dates sit for 10 minutes to soften. Reserve 1.5 cups of the soaking liquid and drain the remaining water from the dates.
- Place the dates and 1 cup of the reserved water into a high speed blender and blend until smooth. Add more water if you’d like a thinner consistency. Transfer to a glass container and cover.
This recipe was adapted from Amy in the Kitchen.*
Gahwa (Arab Coffee) with Date Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Date sugar
- 4 Cardamon pods
- Splash of Rose water
- Saffron (optional)
- 4 cups water
- 2 tablespoons Arabic Coffee
- Boil the coffee with 4 cups of water in a teapot or saucepan. It should take about 5 minutes.
- Once boiled, lower the heat, add the cardamon, rose water, saffron, and date sugar.
- Allow it to simmer for 5 minutes- 10 minutes on low heat. Taste as you go, if it needs more sugar add more.
- Serve immediately while it’s warm.
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