Since moving to Qatar, I have had more dates than ever. And I’m not talking about playdates, dates with friends or date nights with my husband. Dates as in the dried fruit. I probably never realized how delicious they are and how important they are to this region.
Dates come from a palm and in many varieties. So many varieties that it can become overwhelming if you don’t know which one you prefer. At the grocery store, you can begin by easily picking out the ones that are covered in chocolate, filled with an orange peel, or filled with nuts, such as almonds or pistachios. Next to that, is a huge assortment: Ajwah, Khenize, Khudri, Mabroom, Sagai, Safawy, Sofry, etc.
Even going to the souq, you can have your pick and possibly sample to see what you like before buying a kilo or so to bring home. This is how I knew which variety I liked and shared with my family. I thought I knew all the varieties there were, but then heard that there was a date festival happening at the souq with 20 varieties of dates from 22 local farms that weren’t even available at the grocery store such as Barhi, Hibri, Ikhlas, Lulu, Razeez and Shishi. So, of course I had to go to see what more can I possibly learn about these dates that are found in abundance here.
I knew that they were pretty much a food staple here in Qatar as I mentioned in my post about going out to Banana Island, but turns out they are filled with a lot of health benefits that I was unaware of. Being filled with fiber, magnesium and potassium, it helps with the digestive system, can act as an anti inflammatory, reduces blood pressure and even promotes a healthy pregnancy and labor. During Ramadan, I learned that Muslims break their fasting at iftar with dates because of the sugars, which quickly satisfies the hunger after a day of fasting and helps avoid overeating. Dates are also filled with carbohydrates, which means that is takes a longer time to digest a date.
All makes perfect sense to me now as to why they are so popular. While the palms were bearing the date fruit you could have picked them yourself, as long as you weren’t planning to sell them. I had enough with my kilo of dates that I purchased from the souq, so I wasn’t interested in picking my own. But nice to know that if I ever need a healthy energy boost, I can pick up a date!