Delicious and Nutritious: the surprisingly healthy date

The healthy sugar contained in dates is not the refined sugar with which we are familiar
April 16, 2016
Delicious and Nutritious: the surprisingly healthy date (Enlarge)
"Tamar Shean" or "Shean Dates" was established sixty years ago. In 2010 it merged with Zemach Dates Ltd. to become Valley Dates.

The Valley Dates packing station is the largest one processing Northern date cultivars: Derrie, Halawi, Zahidi, Khadrawi, Hayani and Amri. It is located in one of the only regions of Israel where these varieties are grown.

 

Dates are grown over some two and a half thousand acres in the Jordan Valley and Valley of Springs and our packing station currently processes some 5,000 tonnes of various date varieties per year, some of which are destined for industry and the remainder packaged and sold both in Israel and abroad.

Substantial Investment Substantial Yields

Vast long term investments are needed for dates. There is a formula that holds true for most regions of Israel.

Avner Yosef of Moshav Tomer in the Jordan Valley, (who has served as CEO of the Valley Dates packing station since 2013) points out that date farming is different from other forms of agriculture. It takes several years before date palms bear fruit. However, over a five year period, yields can be predicted with remarkable accuracy.

Packing Station Processing

One of the challenges faced by the packing station is the brief six week to two month date harvesting season (September to mid October), during which huge quantities of dates are delivered for processing.

Dates are able to withstand freezing and defrosting because of their Brix level or sugar content. The higher the Brix level the greater the preservation time.

Extended processing times are due, among other things, to the fact that dates require individual sorting. A single date weighs about 10 gm.

 During the two months of harvest some 5,000 tones of dates are delivered to the packing station, while its actual capacity is 30 tonnes. Individual sorting reveals flaws such as puffing. The less puffing that occurs in the skin, the higher the quality of the date. While this does not affect taste it does reduce shelf life. The more separation occurring between fruit and skin the more sensitive it becomes to damage.

 

 

 

Date Health Benefits

The healthy sugar contained in dates is not the refined sugar with which we are familiar.

That dates are healthy is borne out by Professor Michael Aviram, who heads the lipid research facility at Haifa's Rambam Hospital. His findings demonstrate that all date cultivars are rich in anti oxidants and that the Halawi variety is particularly rich in them. Anti oxidants prevent the fatty deposits that can lead to heart attacks or stroke from accumulating in arteries. The Halawi variety grows mainly in the Valley of Springs.

Follow up research conducted by Professor Aviram demonstrates that dates are not only rich in anti oxidants but that the Derrie, Barhi and Deglet Noor cultivars are able to expedite the removal of fatty deposits from arteries in addition to their anti oxidant properties that prevent arterial fat deposits.

Professor Aviram has also discovered that dates could reduce cholesterol. His research has broken the dates and sugar paradigm. His findings show that if a healthy person consume 100 gm (5-8) dates per day no noticeable rise in blood sugar or fats is observed.


 

Mostly Export

 

Sixty to seventy percent of the dates processed at the packing station are destined for overseas' markets with the remainder being sold locally. Avner explains that at one time Europe was the principal market but that over the past six to seven years only about half of all exports goes to Europe with the remainder going to Turkey, Russia and the US. The US imports Israeli dates despite the date farms in California.

In view of the diversity of markets, the packing station is required to meet several international standards, including TESCO, BRC and ISO. Intensive negotiations are currently under way with India for the export of Israeli dates.

The three major items produced from dates processed at the Valley Dates packing station are:

  1. Seedless Dates, preserved dates from which the seeds have been extracted and are then vacuum packed. They are fresh dates that have not been cooked at all.
  2. Date Spread, the spread is made of dates that have been cooked and to which some sugar has been added. It is mostly used for baking but can also be used for sandwich making.
  3. Silan or Date Syrup, this contains two types: natural date syrup and date syrup to which sugar has been added. Valley Dates, explains Avner, focuses on natural, heat extracted date syrup without sugar additives.

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