- Dates are a common snack across the world, and it is not different in the United States.
- Dates popularity in the United States continue to grow especially for certain variety like Medjool, Deglet Noor, Halawy, and Barhi.
- Dates do not have to be only a snack, they have incredible health benefits, and you can use them for various purposes.
In recent years, dates popularity has soared in the United States. Dates are now popular as one of the most preferred snack choice. People can enjoy these sweet fruits as a tasty treat or for their many health benefits. Varieties such as Medjool, Deglet Noor, Halawy, and Barhi are becoming popular among consumers.
What is the date fruit?
Dates are the fruit of the palm tree Arecaceae or Palmae. There are more than 200 varieties of dates, and they mostly come from the Middle East, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. While dates have been part of the Middle Eastern diet for centuries, the rest of the world is only beginning to catch up. Dates have made a splash because they contain many health properties and are highly nutritious.
Where do dates grow?
Dates grow on trees called date palms, and they tend to grow in large clusters, hanging more than 50 feet from the ground. Although the date palm tree is native to North Africa and the Middle East, you can now find them across India, Mexico, and the Canary Islands.
Dates in the United States
Although you might be inclined to think that dates are a new thing in the United States, they have been cultivated since the 1800s. Fresh dates are usually available from August to late March. Because dates are left on the tree to hang until they are fully ripe, they might begin to dry before they are harvested. However, these are still considered fresh dates.
In the United States, those states with an adequate dry climate to sustain date palms are the number one producers of fruit. California makes up more than 90% of the total country’s date production, followed by southern Arizona and southern Nevada.
Variety of dates across the United States
There are over 200 varieties of dates. Still, only a few have made their way to the United States. In the California region, 75% of the dates are Deglet Noor, and only recently did Medjool begin to comprise 25% of the cultivation. In Arizona, Amir Hajj, Empress, Halawy, Khadrawy, Sayer, and Zahidi collectively make up 10% of the total production. However, more than 95% of the production is the Medjool variety.
After being harvested, Medjool dates are dried to about 24-28% of moisture. On the other hand, Deglet Noor dates are mostly dried as they hang on the tree.
Date Production and Sales in the United States
Not surprisingly, production has increased in recent years as there is more coverage of the health benefits of dates. In fact, in 2020, California produced 49,300 tons of dates. Still, this is far behind the world’s leaders, with Egypt leading the charts, followed by Iran, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Exports are also increasing for the United States. For the 2020-2021 cycle, the United States exported 39.6 million pounds of dates to Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The total sales for exports had an approximate value of $87.5 million.
Nonetheless, the United States continues to import dates to match the consumption level. In the 2020-2021 cycle, the United States imported 53.1 million pounds of fresh dates. Most of them are from the Middle East, including Tunisia, Israel, and Pakistan, while most preserved dates came from Mexico.
Where to buy dates?
If you live in the United States, you can find dates in any grocery store. An organic store is more likely to sell a greater variety of dates. You can also find all sorts of dates online.
In recent years, you can find health stores that sell natural supplements and foods. These will also sell dried fruits, such as dates.
Finally, ethnic markets and farmer’s markets are great places to find dates and other dried fruits that might otherwise not be available.
Benefits of Dates
- 22.6 kcal
- 0.196g protein
- 0.031g fat
- 6g carbohydrate
- 0.64g fiber
- 5.07g sugar
- 3.12mg calcium
- 0.0082mg iron
- 3.44mg magnesium
- 4.96mg phosphorus
- 52.5mg potassium
- 0.16mg sodium
- 0.032mg vitamin C
These are just some of the nutrients that one date can give you. Having a couple of dates is a healthy way to obtain fiber, and other nutrients, such as potassium and magnesium.
Aside from being highly nutritious, dates are also antioxidants, which prevent oxidative damage. Overall, our bodies go through oxidative stress and damage when our cells encounter certain toxins that cause decay and inflammation. Dates are high in polyphenols, which are highly antioxidant and can protect your body from damage.
Since dates are antioxidants, they can also be anti-inflammatory. This means that they contain certain nutrients, like beta-glucan, that can interfere with inflammatory pathways. When you consume dates, you can prevent chronic inflammation, which leads to pain, chronic illness, and even cancer.
Finally, dates can also be anti-microbial, so they can help prevent infection from bacteria and other pathogens. The methanol and acetone extract in dates can act as an anti-microbial to help protect you from acute infections.
Other date uses
Aside from health benefits, dates are a good resource for other purposes. On one hand, dates are sweet but contain a low glycemic index. Overall, this means that you can safely eat them without increasing your blood sugar levels too high. The total glycemic index of one date is between 35-48, which qualifies as a low glycemic food under 50. For persons with diabetes or in need of weight loss, dates can become a safe snack.
Since they are sweet but do not raise blood glucose levels excessively, you can also use dates for sweetening. You can use them whole, as syrup, or as a paste to use in your sauces, juices, smoothies, and desserts.
Furthermore, you can find commercial date extract being sold for its health benefits. In many cases, data extract can rejuvenate your skin thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Finally, it can be used for natural antibacterial products.
Dates consumption has increased across the world, but it is growing quickly in the United States. You can see that the country produces dates but also imports them. The most common variety of dates includes Medjool, Deglet Noor, and Halawy among others. You can use dates as a snack or for their various health and practical benefits.
While dates are precedent from the Middle East, you can find them across the world. Recently, the United States has increased its production and harvest of fresh and dry dates. Consumption of dates is high thanks to their health benefits, practical uses, and dense nutrient profile.