Dates are sweet and good in almost anything you can imagine. But have you ever wondered why dates are so sweet ? What sets them apart from other fruits that makes them so delicious ? And why are they so sticky, does it have to do with the sweetness ?
This is what we’re covering today in this post, including how to figure out if the dates you bought are naturally sweet or artificially sweetened. Let’s take a look.
Why are dates so sweet ?
Dates are sweet because they have been selectively bred to be very sweet, just like bananas. Aside from this, almost all dates on the market are dried dates, which makes for a concentrated flavor and more sweetness. Fresh dates aren’t as sweet as dried dates.
Not all dates are the same level of sweetness, and you can easily find artificially sweetened dates. We’ll tell you how to figure out if they’re natural or not, but first let’s take a closer look at why they’re sweet.
Modern dates have been bred to be sweet
Dates are many, and they have varying levels of sweetness. The original date, thousands of years ago, likely wasn’t as sweet as it is nowadays. Just like any other fruit, the sweetest dates were selected, planted, harvested, and then only the sweetest were planted again, and so on. All of this until a distinctly sweet date took shape. Keep in mind this happened thousands of years ago, and from then on different cultivars of sweet dates were established.
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Most commercial dates are Medjool dates, the biggest dates and they are fairly sweet. There are also Egyptian honey dates, which are the sweetest but harder to find. And there are Royal Dates (Deglet Nour), another type of large, sweet dates.
These three cultivars are the sweetest, and the ones you’re likely buying when looking for dates in any sort of market. Smaller, lesser known cultivars are only found in specialty stores.
Most dates on the market are dried dates
Fresh dates are not as sweet as dried dates. This means that if you ever travel to a country that farms dates – like Algeria – and try to eat a fresh date, you may be a bit disappointed. Dates become sweeter as they dry out and the natural sugars in the fruit crystallize.
The fruits lost a large percentage of their moisture, thus making the total sugar content per weight higher. The actual sugar amount is the same, but the fruit simply shrinks and the sweetness appears concentrated.
This is about 80% of the reason the dates you’re eating are so sweet. In fact most dried fruit are sweet, even if they weren’t very sweet to begin with.
Naturally sweet vs sweetened dates
You may be wondering if your dates aren’t too sweet. Maybe they’re sweetened, like cranberries are. Or maybe that’s just their natural level of sugar. How can you tell ? Well there are a couple of ways to figure out whether your dates are actually sweet or they were glazed with something. Let’s take a look.
Sweet on the inside, not on the outside
Dates, because of their structure, are sweet mostly on the inside. That is where the sweet pulp is, and the dry outer skin has no real taste, and no real sweetness. So if you simply touch your tongue to a dried date, it should barely register as sweet.
Read also: Why Is Honey So Sweet ?
Not if the outside is sweet as well, it’s definitely sweetened or glazed with something. This is especially true is the outside is sticky. The outside of a date is dry, and a bit shiny. It’s not sticky like a dried plum, instead it should leave almost no residue on your hands.
If you can’t tell the difference between the outside and the inside of the date in terms of sweetness, that’s okay. Try eating one, and see how sweet it is. If it’s got a fruity-sour taste and has some sweetness to it, it’s good. If it’s very, very sweet and it overpowers the flavor, it’s most likely a sweetened date.
In terms of how good they are, it doesn’t really matter. Both sweetened and natural dates are just as good in baking and cooking. But you will have to adjust the amount of sugar in your recipes if using the sweetened one.
Why are dates so sticky ?
Dates are sticky, especially on the inside, because of their natural sugars and they still have some moisture left. These two factors combine to make dried dates a sticky, thick fruit that can actually keep many recipes together. Sugar is a natural thickener, though you need to sue large amounts, like you would for a jar of jam.
Dates are dried, not dehydrated. A bit of moisture left, plus all that natural sugar makes for a very soft interior, just like dried plums. And once you cut or bite into it, it will stick to whatever it touches. Cutting dried dates is never fun. But you can make it easier if you run the knife under hot water before each slice.
How do you pit dates ?
Most dates come already pitted, but some don’t. Usually you’ll see on the packaging whether they’re pitter or not. They should also have a slit where the pit was removed. So here’s how to remove the store if it’s till there.
Slice the date lengthwise, pop the pit out. It will be sticky and it will not come out easily, like if you squeezed it. A bit of the dried fruit will stick to the stone. Don’t worry, you’re not losing half the pulp.
Make sure there you didn’t get stuffed dates. There are some dates that are already pitted, but may instead be stuffed with various food items. Nuts, almonds, bits of other fruit like raisins, and so on. Don’t confuse a bit of nut or almond poking out with the actual pit. The pits are not as ‘clean’ and light as the stuffing, They are darker and always have some fruit sticking to them.
And that’s pretty much it ! Now you know dates are so sweet because they’ve been bred to be sweet, and they get even sweeter when they dry out. So don’t worry about why they’re sweet, instead focus on how to adjust the sugar content if you’re worried about it.