Dates & Date Palms
Date palms are known to live at least 200 years in their native areas of North Africa and Arabia. The date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) was first imported on a large scale into the U.S. in the 1890's. Large plantings were done in the lower Colorado River desert areas of California and Arizona. The trees thrived and today the U.S. date industry produces more than 60 million pounds of fruit annually. Egypt and Iraq are the world's largest producer of dates.
A date tree can be grown from the pit or seed in each fruit, but the chances are 50/50 of getting a male tree. Commercial plantings are done by removing and planting the offshoots, or clone trees, that sprout from the base of the mature producing females. These will always be a genetic copy of the parent tree.
The cycle of work to produce a bountiful crop of dates begins in early spring. In March and April both the male and female trees produce a dozen or more large brown flower pods which split open when mature to reveal the flowers inside. The long stems of male flowers, heavy with pollen, are gathered and placed inside the female flowers to assure complete pollenation. One male tree can supply enough pollen for 40-50 females.
By mid May the developing dates are marble sized and the female flower stalk has grown to a length of 4-6 feet. These flexible green stalks are bent over and tied down to a lower frond on the tree. This gives the developing bundles support as their weight increases and also makes them easier to access for the rest of the season.
In late August the bundles are nearly full-sized, but are still green and immature. Depending upon the variety, the dates will now turn either bright red or golden yellow. At this stage they are covered to protect them from rain, birds, and sunburn.
In the Fall the fruit becomes fully ripe, turning either deep brown or jet black, and softening and sweetening into the lucious fruit that consumers love. The harvest season lasts from September through December, as each of the different varieties ripen. Typical adult trees will produce 200-300 pounds of fruit each season. After the harvest, the trees are trimmed and dethorned in preparation for the next year.
The Power of the Food Pyramid
The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Guide Pyramid is an outline of what to eat every day for good health. The Pyramid shows the importance of eating a variety of foods to obtain the nutrients you need while consuming the right amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight.
The Food Guide Pyramid recommends that you consume two to four servings of fruit per day for the all-important fiber, vitamins, and minerals they supply. Great tasting, power-packed California dates are part of the Pyramid's Fruit Group. Enjoying California dates can easily help you achieve the recommended goal for servings of fruit each day.
Fat-Free, Cholesterol-Free California Dates
California dates, being sodium-free, fat-free (including saturated fat-free), cholesterol-free, and a good source of fiber, all of which are important factors in reducing the risk of both heart disease and cancer, fit very well into a healthy diet.
The USDA's Food Group Pyramid focuses on choosing foods that are low in fat and sodium. Health authorities, including the National Cancer Institute and the USDA, recommend that Americans limit fat in their diets to 30% of their calories. This has important health implications.
While the development of cancer depends upon many factors, a diet low in fat may reduce the risk of some cancers. Also, diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fruits, vegetables, and grain products that contain fiber may lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
How Many Powerful Dates?
It may surprise you to learn that the average California date has only 23 calories. Five to six nutritious and delicious Californa dates, or 1/4 cup of chopped dates, equals one serving. The National Cancer Institute recommends that you eat a minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables a day for better health. This recommendation is part of a low-fat, high-fiber diet to help reduce the risk of some types of cancer. A handful of dates will help you meet the five-a-day goal. It's easy to remember: 5 A Day for Better Health!
Fiber-Filled California Dates
California dates are a sweet and good source of dietary fiber. Many studies show that diets low in fat and high in fiber-containing foods are associated with reduced risks of some types of cancer.
The National Cancer Institue recommends that you consume 20 to 35 grams of dietary fiber per day. California dates are a "good source" of fiber. A serving of power-packed California dates, just five to six of them, can help you meeet this daily recommendation by providing three grams of dietary fiber. This is 14% of your recommended daily intake of dietary fiber.
Fiber comes in two forms - soluble and insoluble. Each serves a valuable function. Insoluble fiber increases the rate at which food moves through the digestive system. Soluble fiber may help control diabetes by decreasing elevated blood glucose levels. Soluble fiber also has been found to help lower serum cholesterol levels, particularly undesirable low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
Carbohydrates - A Source of Energy Packed Into California Dates
A serving of California dates contains 31 grams of carbohydrates, making them a powerhouse of energy. The carbohydrates found in California dates, including three grams of dietary fiber and 29 grams of naturally occuring sugars, such as fructose, glucose, and sucrose, provide quick energy and are readily assimilated into and used by the body. This makes California dates a perfect choice as an energy-boosting snack.
Potassium-Packed California Dates
Potassium is an essential mineral needed by your body to maintain muscle contractions, including the vital heart muscle. Potassium is also needed to maintain a healthy nervous system and to help with the body's metabolism. This is an important consideration for physically active people because the body's supply of potassium can be reduced through perspiration.
Eating California dates and dringing water is an ideal, natural way to replenish the body's need for potassium. One serving of California dates contains 240 milligrams of potassium, or 7% of the recommended daily value (DV) of this essential nutrient. In fact, weight for weight, dates contain more potassium than do bananas.
Vitamins and Minerals in California Dates
California dates contain a variety of B-complex vitamins. They contain thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, and pantothenic acid. These vitamins have a variety of functions that help maintain a healthy body. They help metabolize carbohydrates and maintain blood glucose levels and fatty acids for energy. They also help make hemoglobin, the red and white blood cells.
Magnesium is essential for helpthy bone development and energy metabolism. One serving of California dates provides 4% of the suggested daily intake of this essential nutrient.
Foods are quite often nutritious because of what they do not have. Fruits, such as California dates, are important both for what they supply and for what they do not supply. California dates are sodium-free, fat-free, and cholesterol-free.
Sodium-Free California Dates
California dates provide a great tasting snack food or recipe ingredient that will not add any sodium to your diet. Most Americans consume more sodium than the recommended amount of no more than 2,400 to 3,000 milligrams per day. Consuming too much sodium may increase the risk of heart disease and hypertension.
For a more detailed look at the nutritional value of dates, please visit Verywell Fit.
Information provided by: Oasis Date Gardens, The California Date Administrative Committee, and Verywell Fit.