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DEGLET NOOR DATES

Introduction
The Deglet Noor date is one of the various cultivars of dates. The name Deglet Noor in Arabic means ‘queen of dates’. It originated from Algeria. It is also grown in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United States of America as well as numerous Mediterranean countries such as Iran. Algeria is the world’s largest producer of this variety of dates, where it is grown in the Biskra province, in particular areas known to have oases.

Description of the fruit
The authentic Algerian Deglet Noor date is known to have a soft touch, a translucent light color and a soft taste that is honey-like, and these characteristics are what distinguish it from other dates.

Areas in which they are grown
Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, United States, Iran

Harvesting period
The Deglet Noor dates can be harvested at one of two maturation stages, either Rutab or Tamar depending on the nature of its consumption.

It is harvested in two ways:

• Harvesting in branches – When the fruit is harvested in branches, it is harvested at the Rutab stage before it goes into Tamar stage. This is done in countries such as Algeria, Tunisia and Israel where he fruit is not only harvested for local consumption but also for export to countries such as France and Italy. This is done carefully by removing the fruit branches and placing them carefully in a cardboard box that in which they are wrapped e.g. in a net or in waxed paper to protect them from birds and insects or from the rain. They are harvested at intervals every 5 to 7 days until all the fruit has been removed from the trees.

• Harvesting as lone fruits – When the fruit is harvested in this stage it is harvested at the Tamar stage. This is done for all fruit to be marketed over a long period of time. When harvesting it is important to protect the fruit to keep it safe from the rain and from pests.

Production
The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that of the total amount of date fruit produced in a year, the Deglet Noor variety is of the most economic value. The fruit is consumed both within the countries of production as well as exported to other countries.

Due to how the fruit is marketed, it is harvested either at the Rutab stage when it is to be marketed as fruit on branches, or at the Tamar stage when it is to be marketed as whole fruit. This also affects the way in which it is packed. Fruit that is to be marketed when still on the branch requires that the branch be at least 10cm long and for every 10cm long branch there are at least 5 dates. The amount of green/unripe fruit should be less than 1%. There are two options of packing it in this way. The first way is that the branches can be packed in two smaller bunches put in cardboard boxes, with a total weight of 10 kg.

The second way is that it can be packed as a bouquet with 3-5 smaller branches wrapped in cellophane paper with the branches tied together at their bases. Each bouquet makes up a total weight of 200-400g. However, packing it in this way is quite labour intensive.

When the fruit is packed it must be of a certain standard, which was set by growers from Tunisia and over time has become accepted and adapted in the other countries in which the fruit is grown. The fruit must be juicy and soft, preferably light-coloured and appearing almost transparent. In good quality Deglet Noor fruit, the outline of the seed can be seen when the fruit is held up against the light.

Exportation and consumer markets
Most of the fruit that is produced is consumed locally within the countries in which it is grown such as Algeria, Tunisia and Israel. It is also exported to European countries such as France, Italy and Spain.

Shelf life and storage
Since the fruit is harvested to be marketed in two different ways, the shelf life and means of storage differ from one type to the other.
Fruit that is harvested in branches can be packed either in bunches or bouquets.

When slightly under ripe, the Deglet Noor can be kept at frozen at below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for up to 10 months, and when fully mature, for up to 5 or 6 months.

Uses
The dates can be consumed whole as freshly dried dates, as frozen dates, as stuffed dates with almond (or) cashew nuts, or coated with chocolate or sesame seeds.

They are also incorporated in the manufacture of a myriad of other products such as energy bars, syrup, honey, pickles, pastes, spreads, fry powder, sugar, juices and vinegar.

Nutritional content and health benefits
Dates are known to have numerous health benefits. They are a rich source of energy, consisting of up to 80% carbohydrates, with starch and reducing sugars such as glucose and fructose. Even with this high sugar content, they are a low glycemic index food and therefore are suitable for consumption by diabetic patients. They also contain essential and non-essential amino acids and are thus a good source of protein. They have a small amount of dietary fibre both soluble and insoluble and could therefore be of benefit to people who suffer from mild constipation. Dates are a rich source of trace minerals and salts, being especially abundant in potassium. They also contain sodium, calcium, boron and magnesium. They contain vitamins such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins niacin, thiamine, riboflavin and folic acid.

They have been shown to have constituents that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity which may have potential benefit for treatment of chronic illnesses like heart diseases. They may also have protective effects on various body organs such as the kidneys, the brain and the gastrointestinal system .

Seeds and seed content
The seeds of dates are also known to have various trace minerals such as cadmium and chloride. They have other constituents that are considered to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activity.

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