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Mabroom Dates

Introduction
Mabroom dates are a type of soft dry date variety (similar to Ajwa dates) that are grown mainly in Saudi Arabia in the Western Peninsula.

History and Description of the fruit
Mabroom dates have a long slender body. They have skin that is almost translucent and dark brown in color. The flesh has supple wrinkles. The mabroom date is not very sweet but has a characteristic taste and chewy flesh. When dried, it has a unique texture that is both soft and firm, with a fibrous taste. They are similar to Khudri dates, but are longer and smaller in size. They have light colour and look wrinkled in appearance but they do not flake.

When dried the Mabroom is a bit tough, but less sweet than Khudri dates. It has a pleasant flavor but one that is less intense than other varieties. The mabroom date is considered to be a premium category of date fruits that are rich in antioxidants and minerals, and because of this they tend to be more expensive than other date varieties.

Areas in which they are grown
Mabroom dates are grown mainly in Madina Monawarah in Saudi Arabia and in Pakistan on a smaller scale.

Harvesting period
Mabroom dates are harvested during the warm summer months of July and August. There are three main harvesting stages for dates:

• Khalal stage: the fruit is physiologically mature but not considered ripe. The fruit has a firm texture and a high moisture content, up to 80%, and a sugar content of about 50%. In this stage it is usually green in colour and is easily perishable, requiring special care in storage and packaging. Fruit that is harvested at this stage usually is allowed to ripen more and proceed to the Rutab stage

• Rutab stage: the fruit is considered as starting to ripen. The moisture content reduces to below 40%. It is softer at this stage and has a higher sugar content, mostly reducing sugars, than the previous stage of Khalal and is therefore easily perishable, requiring special care during the processes of packaging and storage.

• Tamar stage: In this stage the colour of the fruit becomes slightly darker than before. The moisture content is reduced to below 20% and the fruit is considered dried. The texture also changes from firm or hard and becomes softer. The skin of the fruit also becomes wrinkled and pressed close to the flesh of the fruit. In this state the fruit is protected from insects. Due to its dried state it can also be kept for a longer period of time without taking much special precautions. This stage of the Mabroom variety is when it is mature and can thus be harvested.

Exportation and consumer markets
The Mabroom dates are mainly consumed in Saudi Arabia, but small volumes are also exported to the neighbouring Middle Eastern countries as well as to European countries.

Shelf life and storage
Mabroom dates are harvested at the Tamar stage, when they have dried on the trees and thus they have a low moisture content. For export purposes, they are packed in special cardboard boxes, with care being taken not to expose the fruit to excessive heat or humidity. This is because adverse environmental conditions can cause hardening of the fruit and also cause an increase in the sucrose content of the fruit which could easily make it go bad.
For retail purposes, the dates are packed in small plastic containers and are then sealed with transparent plastic wrap. This packing is done either by hand or automatically. The dates are packed according to their weight. When packed in this way, the dates can remain viable, if they stay unopened, for up to a year and a half from the date when they were packaged.

Uses
Mabroom dates like many other date varieties can be consumed whole as freshly dried dates, either pitted or unpitted. They can also be eaten in various other forms e.g. stuffed with nuts such as almond or cashew, or dipped and coated in chocolate.

They are also used to make various other products such as syrups, juices, energy drinks, energy bars, date pickles, pastes, spreads, powders and vinegar. They can be used in cooking and baking specialty pastries such as date cakes and date bread. They are also used in making certain premium products such as date milkshakes and date ice cream.

The fruits that are harvested but are not selected for marketing due to their lower quality usually are used in making animal feeds and can be fed to cattle, camels, goats and horses.

Nutritional content and health benefits
Dates have a rich supply of nutrients. They are high in energy, with about 284 calories being liberated from 100g of dates. They consist of up to 80% carbohydrates, with both starch and reducing sugars like fructose. Despite the high sugar content, they are suitable for consumption by diabetic patients because they don’t cause fluctuation of the blood glucose levels. This is because they have a low glycemic index. They are also a good source of both essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids such as proline, lysine and glycine. They contain a small amount of dietary fibre and can therefore be of use to people who suffer from mild constipation. Dates are an abundant source of vitamins, trace minerals and salts. They contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins niacin, riboflavin, folic acid and thiamine. They are particularly replete with potassium and one serving of dates is thought to contain more potassium than a banana. They also contain sodium, calcium, magnesium and boron. Their sodium content however is low and therefore they are fit for consumption in patients who have heart disease or hypertension.

Dates have been shown to have constituents such as phenolic compounds and flavonoids which are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. These may have potential benefit for use in the treatment of chronic illnesses like heart diseases. They may also have protective effects on some body systems such as the brain and spinal cord, the kidneys and the stomach.

Seeds and seed content
Date seeds have been shown to have various trace minerals and salts such as cadmium, chloride and selenium. They also contain some phenolic compounds such as those in the date flesh that are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity and are thus able to protect the body’s tissues from oxidative damage.

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