Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fresh Dates (Taze Hurma)



Originating in the Middle East, these sweet fruits sit on top of date palm trees along with branches of feathery looking, hard, green leaves which are long and sharp. The thick, long stalk extending from the trunk of the tree carries the fruit in clusters, on long, yellow strands on its tip, resembling a broom. The fruit is oval shaped and varies in length approximately from 1-2.5 inches with a pit residing inside its flesh. The variety of the date palm determines its shape, size and color which range from yellow to red to brown.

Dates are astringent until fully mature and taste extremely sweet when ripe. The ripening process occurs during various stages and a different taste emerges with each stage. Unripe dates taste bitter, when fully ripened the skin of the dates will get wrinkly and soft allowing the skin to be removed effortlessly. The taste will be syrupy or honey-like when dates are completely ripe.

Harvest time for dates starts in September and continues during the following few months. They can be harvested prior to being fully ripe and ripen at room temperature.

Dates mainly grow in the Arabic countries where they are exposed to plenty of sun which is essential for their growth. In Turkey, the Mediterranean and Agean Sea regions have adequate climates to grow dates; therefore, date palm trees are very common in my province Hatay (Southern Turkey). My late grandparents had a date palm tree in their garden which bears red dates that are longer and sweeter than the yellow ones. The inner part of date is white regardless of the skin color. In my opinion, red dates are far more delicious than their yellow counterparts and my favorite stage is the crunchy and sweet stage. I recall a classmate in grade school bringing dates with her regularly from her family’s many date palm trees and sharing with me. If I am remembering correctly, she used to bring red and yellow ones, although the yellow dates were similar to the red ones in terms of shape. They looked different than what I have shown in the picture above.

This is another fruit that I had never seen outside Houston in the U.S. Although dry dates are widely available in the U.S., fresh dates are mainly sold at some Middle Eastern stores in states where large Arabic population exist, such as Michigan. This is the first time I have ever purchased dates. When I saw them the first time a few years ago, I thought they were not ripe enough and had forgotten the fact that they would ripen when left at room temperature! I just wish I could find red dates; then, I would purchase them regularly.

If you, like me, also develop a curiosity on the health benefits of fruit and vegetables you eat, you probably wonder about the health benefits of dates while reading this post. Dates are full of fiber, carotene, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, iron and antioxidants. They are also good for digestion, sore throat, colds and protection against heart diseases.

If you see fresh dates in your grocery store’s produce department or anywhere else, give them a try!


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16 comments:

Soma said...

Nihal we love these. used to get it a lot back in India, but i find these here only in Indian groceries & farmers market. everyone should start eating & knowing these:-) do you want to send this for the weekend herb blogging hosted at The Well Seasoned Cook, by Susan?

meeso said...

I agree, dates are delicious!

Elra said...

Good info as usual. I never ever seen one around here. Thanks for sharing Nihal.

Mediterranean Turkish Cook said...

Soma, it looks like it's too late for the weekend herb blogging :( I only checked my comments today. Maybe next time. Thanks for telling me!

5 Star Foodie said...

I think I've only had dried dates before but not fresh ones, will look for them!

Selba said...

So interesting to see fresh dates! I always eat the dried ones...

lisaiscooking said...

I'd be thrilled if I ever found fresh dates! I've only ever tasted the dried kind, and I'm so curious about fresh ones.

Papatya said...

Merhaba :)

Amaranth denilen otun Turkcesini ben de bilmiyordum, ogrendigim iyi oldu.
Hurmalar hakkinda da bilgi edinmis oldum. Israilde inanilmaz renklerde ve boyutlarda hurmalar gormustuk.

Memnun oldum. Benim de bir turkce blogum var, beklerim.

Mediterranean kiwi said...

i'v e always loved dates but have never seen them fresh. the ones we get in greece are either ripened on the branch (they are more expensive) or with glucose.

we have a kind of date tree growing in crete, mainly for garden enhancement purposes - these produce tiny dates which have a large stone, but very little fruit covering them (this has something to do with the pollination process), but the actual fruit is edible and very sweet

Mediterranean Turkish Cook said...

Papatya, blog'uma ugradiginiz icin tesekkurler. Hurmalarin cok degisik cesitleri varmis ve her birine de degisik bir isimler veriliyormus. Israil'de gorduklerinizi denemek isterdim dogrusu.

Ben de bir ara blog'unuza ugrarim.

Mediterranean kiwi said...

thanks for your comment - now that we are talking about bouyiourdi, can you let me know what the word means? i think it is turkish in origin, but have no idea what the meaning of this word is

glad you liked the omelette with the courgettes - when everything is seasonal and fresh and high quality, simple foods are often the most delicious. i think i cook very simply in general terms - if my food is deemed 'good', 'tasty', delicious', i'm sure it's got something to do with the high quality of ingredients available!

Taste of Beirut said...

Dates are wonderful and there are so many recipes in Arab cooking which use them. In Lebanon, there is a traditional way to consume them, which is to preserve them in a homemade syrup

farida said...

I do see fresh khurma in a Middle Eastern store nearby though I never bought them. I think I should:)

Nihal said...

I'd like to taste fresh dates but I've never seen them fresh before in my whole life. Can it be used for making dessert? Secondly, do you know if we can find them in Istanbul? Maybe I should ask importers, no?

Anyway, thanks for this useful information.

Andrew said...

I started eating dried dates in high school as an alternative to chocolate. Recently my local grocery started carrying fresh Medjouls at USD $7.99 per pound. They taste phenomenal and of course have a decent amount of fiber and minerals (amazing how my priorities have changed in middle age :-) I'm hoping to convince my kids to try them.

Mediterranean Turkish Cook said...

Taste of Beirut, I think I'd love to try them preserved. I have never tasted them that way.

Nihal, yes there is an excellent dessert that can be made from fresh dates. They are stuffed with almonds and syrup is added. (I don't know the details, but my mom makes it). I am not sure if you can find fresh dates in Istanbul, I've hardly seen them in any market even in Southern Turkey.

Andrew, it's funny how people's tastes change as they get older. I hope you can convince your kids to eat them.