Dates, which are the fruit of the date palm, are not only very nutritious but well liked by most persons. They are oblong in shape and have a single hard seed that is grooved on one side. As dates contain very little water and a great deal of sugar, their food value is high, being more than five times that of apples and oranges. They are also valuable in the diet because of their slightly laxative effect. When added to other food, such as cakes, hot breads, etc., they provide a great deal of nutriment.
The finest dates on the market come from Turkey and the Eastern countries. They are prepared for sale at the places where they grow, being put up in packages that weigh from 1/2 to 1 pound, as well as in large boxes from which they can be sold in bulk. It is very important that all dates, whether bought in packages or in bulk, be thoroughly washed before they are eaten. While those contained in packages do not collect dirt after they are packed, they are contaminated to a certain extent by the hands of the persons who pack them. To be most satisfactory, dates should first be washed in hot water and then have cold water run over them. If they are to be stuffed, they should be thoroughly dried between towels or placed in a single layer on pans to allow the water to evaporate. While the washing of dates undoubtedly causes the loss of a small amount of food material, it is, nevertheless, a wise procedure.
Dates can be put to many valuable uses in the diet. They are much used in cakes, muffins, and hot breads and in fillings for cakes and cookies. Several kinds of delicious pastry, as well as salads and sandwiches, are also made with dates. Their use as a confection is probably the most important one, as they are very appetizing when stuffed with nuts, candy, and such foods.