Dates or its scientific name, Phoenix dactylifera, originates from the land of Iraq. It is popular for its natural sweetness and health benefits. Dates are the official mascot of the holy month in the Islamic calendar, Ramadan (a month where Muslims go through a spiritual cleansing). They are usually the first choice of food for Muslims to break their fast with during iftaar (the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan). The reason why Muslims are recommended to eat these little morsels to break their fast is because it is mentioned in a hadith (a collection of narrated quotes and actions of the prophet Muhammad);
“The prophet would break his fast with ripe dates before he would pray. If those were not available, he would eat dried dates. If those were not available, he would drink some water.”
Apart from that, dates have health benefits and nutritional values such as vitamin B-6, vitamin C as well as Magnesium to keep our body healthy and energized during the month of Ramadan.
In Malaysia, there are a few brands that are very popular in the market such as the prominent Yusuf Taiyoob. I’m sure Malaysians are very familiar with the ads featuring sultry whispers. These ads are even dubbed by Malaysian Muslims as the unofficial announcer of Ramadan. In time with the arrival of Ramadan, I know that soon the sultry whispers of Yusuf Taiyoob will be everywhere and the panic of choosing the right kind of dates to suit your taste will come looming. Thus, I have prepared a simple guide about the different types available for you this coming Ramadan.
So, let’s date up!
Ajwa dates are claimed to be the Prophet’s favourite and are very popular among Muslims because of their moderately sweet taste and soft texture. They are small and dark brown in colour and contain a high percentage of carbohydrates, 15 salts and minerals, 14 types of fatty acids, 23 amino acids, six vitamins and rich in dietary fibres. All this good stuff can basically protect you from particular diseases such as heart attacks, strokes and abdominal cancer. Besides their health benefits, there are also some interesting hadith relating to Ajwa dates. Narrated by Saud; the Messenger (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) said,
“If Somebody takes seven ‘ajwa dates in the morning, neither magic nor poison will hurt him that day.”
[Sahih Bukhari, Book #71, Hadith #664 (also 663, 672)].
In reference to consume seven Ajwa dates, the Messenger (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) said,
“He will not be harmed by anything until he reaches the evening.”
[Sahih Muslim (2047)]
Khudri dates are often medium-sized/large and brownish red in colour. They are very popular because of their very sweet taste and chewy texture which is often fused with chocolate and other pastries. Khudri dates contain magnesium, unstable oils, Vitamin-B6, folic acid, Potassium, Iron and Magnesium, proteins, sugars, natural vitamins and are abundant in all-natural fibres that can lead to a healthy body and brain. They also help you avoid overeating, which is perfect for Muslims who wanted to eat a minimal amount of food for suhoor (the meal consumed early in the morning by Muslims before fasting) and iftaar.
Medjool dates are originally from Morocco but are also grown in United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Palestinian territories. Their caramel-like flavour is suitable to be mixed with different kinds of ingredients for new tasty recipes. Medjool dates are also perfect for those who are dieting since they help decrease cholesterol and increase your insoluble and soluble fibre intake. In addition, they also act as a natural energy booster as they are high natural sugars that are easily processed and utilized by the body for energy.
Mabroom dates, also known as Mabroom Aswad (which means black) for their dark colour, are grown in the western part of the Arabian Peninsula, Madina Monawarah and Pakistan. They are very rich in taste since they are packed with antioxidants and minerals, which is also one of the reasons why they are known as premium dates. Besides, they are natural sweeteners and can be eaten with coffee or anything bitter; a great contrast taste of sweet. Mabroom dates are usually harvested during the months of July through August, and just like any other dates, they can be served in various ways including making drinks such as energy drinks and juice. They can also be used in cooking and baking, for instance, in cakes and breads.
Sayer dates, also known as Stamaran, Saamaran, Stamara or Samberun, are mainly produced in Iran and harvested in mid-October. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, nutrients, fibre, antioxidants and simple sugars. Sayer dates are long and oval-shaped and are dark brown or reddish in colour once they have ripened. In Iran, they are one of the leading exports and have been a favourite in several countries such as Canada, England, Australia and New Zealand. One of the benefits of Sayer dates is they can be stored for two years without being refrigerated since they are contained a moisture level of less than 17%. Note that it is important to not store Sayer dates beside strong chemical foods such as fish and onions.
Wait, there’s more….
Love your dates but tired of eating them straight? Learn exciting recipes to make dates even more delicious!