Zahidi Dates also known as Zahedi dates are just one of the varieties of dates lovingly produced in Iran - home of the most exquisite dates in the world. Of these, the Zahedi date is considered the most frequently used variety of date in Iran. It is considered one of the most delicious dry dates in the world.
History: Although cultivated in a number of regions of Iran, the most extensive production of Zahedi dates takes place in Dashtestan, a city in Bushehr province. Bushehr province is located in the south of the country, where the weather is hot and dry and has lead to the province being a prominent producer of date palms. In fact, date palms are the only produce in Bushehr province that are exported. Bushehr's economy, therefore, is largely dependent on palm cultivation, and has around 16,250 acres dedicated to this effort.
Description: Zahedi dates are thick, small, oval dates, about 3.5cm in size. Zahedi dates have a distinctive appearance; they are hard, shiny and dried up, sometimes their skins sticks to the flesh and sometimes, based on weather (heat, humidity), the fruit skin will separate from the fleshy part. They range from yellow to light brown in colour depending on ripeness. With a moisture content of less than 14%, lower than that of other varieties, they are considered a dried fruit. Zahedi dates are meaty and delicious and, as they are considerably less sweet than other date varieties available, they are particularly suited to those who aren't hugely keen on sweet tasting things.
Grown in: The Zahedi date can be grown in any of the most tropical cities of Iran but the majority of Zahedi date fruit cultivation occurs in Fars and Kerman provinces. This is also where the best kind of Zahedi date fruit is thought to be found. Zahedi dates can also be grown in cities such as Firuz Abad, Bushehr, Lar, Ahvaz, Khorram Shahr, as well as in other countries, such as Iraq and America. Elsewhere in Iran, Khuzestan province (Khorram Shahr etc.) produces a variation on the Zahedi date, known as the Zohdi Date.
Harvesting period: Zahedi dates are usually harvested in mid September in different areas, but are available in markets from October to March.
Exportation and consumer markets: Zahedi is one of the major species of dried date fruit and has an impressive annual yield. Considered the most frequently used variety of date fruit in Iran, the Zahedi date can be grown in most tropic cities. Of all Zahedi dates produced, the vast majority are consumed in domestic markets; however, due to booming production and high quality in recent years, steps have been taken to export Zahedi dates to international markets.
Storage and shelf life: Zahedi dates can be kept at normal room temperature for around 18 months - 2 years with intermittent fumigation. Zahedi dates are highly durable and the fact that they do not require refrigeration makes shipping them easy.
Nutritional content and health benefits: Zahedi dates contain a variety of minerals (such as potassium, magnesium and protein), vitamins (such as vitamin A, vitamin B complex and vitamin C) and sugars (such as fructose). Their high folate content makes them an effective way of increasing blood circulation. The calorie content of the Zahedi date is made up mostly of simple carbohydrates, some proteins and very little fat. 100g of dried Zahedi dates contains is made up of 70% carbohydrates, 2.2% protein and 0.6% fat and contains around 300 calories. 100g of fresh Zahedi dates, in comparison, contains around 160 calories. Zahedi dates can even help to prevent from various health conditions and diseases; they can help to cure indigestion, prevent anaemia, improve memory and vision. What's more, they also contain only a trace amount of fat - leading them to be considered a low-fat, nutritious food. It should be noted, however, that overindulging on date fruit can cause weight gain due to their excessive sugar content (mostly simple sugars).
Seeds: Date fruit seeds are high in flavonoids and phenolic compounds, meaning they have value as an antioxidant. Date palm seeds also contain 0.56-5.4% lauric acid which can be chemically processed as a source of oxalic acid, whilst the oil from date palm seeds can be used in the production of soap and cosmetics. In addition, the seeds can be burned to make charcoal for silversmiths, strung into necklaces, ground and used as a replacement for coffee beans or added to coffee.
Uses: Zahedi dates can be eaten directly out-of-hand or, for a twist, they can be seeded and stuffed with variety of different foodstuffs for different flavour combinations. They make a delicious addition to cereal, puddings, bread, cakes, cookies, ice cream or candy bars. Surplus dates from production are not wasted, being processed into cubes, paste, spread, powder (date sugar), jam, jelly, juice, syrup, vinegar and alcohol. Other products produced using Zahedi dates include palm sugar, chocolate, fruit bars and certain soft drinks. They are also a popular choice amongst diabetics because of their low and natural sugar.