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Date: The Ramzan fruit

Posted on October 1, 2006
Filed Under >Bilal Zuberi, Food, Religion
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Bilal Zuberi

It is Ramzan once again, an exciting part of the year for Muslims around the world. I have experienced Ramzan (also called Ramadan in some non-Urdu speaking countries) in many cities in many countries, and one thing that has always remained the same is the ritual of breaking fasts with dates (Khajoor). I have had dates at Iftar since childhood and now if dates are not available at Iftaar, I feel empty inside (in more ways than one). If I know that I may be traveling at Iftar time, I pack a few dates to go with me.

Dates are considered a delicious addition to confectioneries and food around the world. I have consumed dates in more ways than just popping one as is in my mouth . Palestinians make excellent cookies with dates. Afghans add dates and figs to their cakes. I have had scrumptious khajoor ka halwaa in Pakistan, and my mom would sometimes leave dates and almonds in milk overnight and give them to us in the morning. As a kid, I loved eating Khajji, which I understand to be a non-ripe date, but if you know more about it, please do elaborate. Oh, and what about Chouharay, which are ceremonially distributed after a Nikah ceremony. They are just dried khajoors, no?




My culinary experience with dates has expanded even more in the US. Dates are present in my favorite cereal, and I can highly recommend date and oatmeal cookies. Dates are added to pudding, breads, spreads, and even sparkling date juices. I have tried date-crusted Halibut fish, but somehow dates and salty food just don’t go well together for me. A few years ago I had tasty date ice-cream and a delightful date milkshake in Palm Springs, California. Speaking of Palm Springs, if you are ever in that part of the world, visit the "Romance Theatre: Romance and Sex Life of a Date". It is an interesting exhibition on dates, their varieties, and life cycle in this difficult world.

When Ramzan rolls around in Pakistan, one can find a date thela (stall) at every major intersection. Dates inevitably attract flies, but that is a part of the attractive visual when buying dates at the last minute. Naturally, washing dates thoroughly before eating is highly recommended. A quick search on google tells me that there are hundreds of varieties of dates (over 300 in Pakistan alone), but in the state of fasting, they somehow all seem the same to me. Soft, mushy, fibrous and honey dripping sweet. More accurately, the look, feel and taste of date depends largely on the glucose, fructose and sucrose content within.

The Date Palm Phoenix dactylifera is a palm, extensively cultivated for its edible drupe fruit, also simply called date. According to Wikipedia, dates have been a staple food of the Middle East for thousands of years. The date palm is believed to have originated around the Persian Gulf, and has been cultivated in ancient times from Mesopotamia to prehistoric Egypt, possibly as early as 6000 BC. There is archaeological evidence of cultivation in eastern Arabia in 4,000 BC. In later times, Arabs spread dates around northern Africa and into Spain, and dates were introduced into California by the Spaniards in 1765, around Mission San Ignacio.

Dates grow in warm climates and the global annual production of dates is about 5.5 million metric tonnes. Egypt is the world’s largest producer (no, not Saudi Arabia as many Pakistanis somehow believe) with 1102 thousand tonnes, Iran is second with 900 thousand tonnes, Saudi Arabia next with 712 thousand tonnes, and Pakistan comes fourth with around 550 thousand tonnes of date production. Other major date producing countries include Iraq, Algeria, UAE, Oman, Sudan, Libya, China, and Tunisia. In the US, however, some of the best dates I have been able to find are either Califorian or Mexican Medjool dates.

Makran, Khairpur and D.I. Khan are major date growing regions in Pakistan. Therhi, in district Khairpur occupies a central place in date processing in Pakistan, with more than a dozen date factories operating in the area. Commercially important date varieties from Pakistan include Aseel, Karbala, Fasli and Kupro of Sindh; Muzawati, Begum Jangi, Jaan Swore, Kehraba and Rabai of Balochistan; Dhakki and Gulistan of NWFP and a seedless variety of Punjab (Source: Pakistan Economist). Seedless dates, now you are talking! Have you ever tried dates where the seeds are replaced with almonds and pistachios? Stuffed dates are also becoming more common around the world as a dessert item.

Pakistan consumes most of the dates it produces and only about 70 -100 thousand metric tonnes are exported annually. Major date importing countries of the world include India, UAE, France, UK and Germany. Among the Muslim countries, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Malaysia are the largest non-date producing countries.

Given the growing use of dates in confectioneries, drinks and food, there is room for considerable growth for Pakistani farmers in this sector, especially if they were enabled to produce higher value-added products inside Pakistan. France, for example, imports dates, treats them and re-packages them for sale internationally at higher prices. Why couldn’t Pakistanis reap that extra profit? There have been several suggestions put forward for the development and growth of this agrcitultural sector, including proposals for a Date Palm Development Institute and a regional consortium of major date-exporting countries, but progress has been very slow.

Well, for now I am happy with a large box of dates in my refrigerator. I have bought enough to last beyond the Ramzan, just like my dad. But before I leave, here’s a recipe for making Khajoor ka halwa. I am trying it myself this weekend so let me know how yours turns out:

Ingredients:
Seedless dates (400 g)
Cashew-nuts (50g)
Badam/Almonds (50g)
Sugar (400g)
Khoya (50g)
Oil/ghee (3/4 cup)

Add half a cup of hot water to the dates and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from fire. Let it cool. Make it into a paste.
Soak badam in hot water for 15 minutes. Remove the skin. Soak the cashew also in hot water for 10 minutes. Grind both the badam and the cashew into a thick paste.
In a broad thick bottomed vessel add the date paste and the sugar. Mix and stir well for 5 minutes continuously till a smooth mass is formed. Then add sugar and khoya and mix well, and then only keep the vessel on fire. Stir well continuously on a low flame, when the mixture reaches the boiling point.
Add oil in small quantities, mix and stir well, till the mixture leaves the sides of the vessel. To check the end point, if you take a little mixture of this and make it into a ball with the help of the tip of your fingers it should not stick. Now, remove from fire. Let it cool . Roll flat and cut into squares for serving.

Battle stations!

The Independent (London, England) January 21, 2009 | Jimmy Lee Shreeve In tough times, escapism is big business – and the games industry is reaping the rewards. Jimmy Lee Shreeve reports on the consoles vying for victory During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Hollywood thrived because it offered people a way to escape from austere times. Today, the video-game industry is providing exactly the same service. Meltdown might only be a heartbeat away for many industries, but business is booming for a number of games corporations. As 2008 drew to a close, global sales of console hardware and games software hit a record $49.9bn, according to UK consulting firm Screen Digest.

With so much at stake, it will come as no surprise that there’s a bloody war for market dominance being waged between the “big three” console manufacturers. Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony are pitted against each other in a battle over who can win the hearts – and cash – of the world’s gamers.

In terms of sales, Sony Corporation’s PlayStation 3, which was launched in November 2006 in the US and in March 2007 in Europe, is increasingly being seen as the runt of the litter. It has long lagged behind Microsoft’s Xbox 360, which went on sale in late 2005, and Nintendo’s Wii, released a year later. The PlayStation 3 made some inroads on the Xbox in Europe, even jumping ahead of it in May 2008. But optimism quickly turned to gloom when CNN declared the console a “sinking ship” after figures from market researcher the NDP Group revealed that the PS3′s November 2008 sales in the US had dropped by 19 per cent compared with November the previous year. site how to fix the red ring of death

Break it down into units sold and the picture looks even bleaker. At the end of September, 17 million PS3s had been sold worldwide, compared with 28 million (its current total) Xbox 360 machines and 35 million Wiis. Yet go back a generation and the PlayStation 2 was shattering sales records and generally coming out victor in the war with Microsoft and Nintendo.

So what went wrong? Many believe Sony shot itself in the foot by making the PS3 too pricey. You can pick up a Wii for around 180, and an Xbox 360 (Premium) for around 170, but a PlayStation 3 (80GB) will set you back about 280/300 – a stark price difference in the deepening recession. Another issue with the PS3 is you can’t play PS2 games on current PS3 models (although you can on first- generation PS3s).

Then there’s the Blu-ray drive, which plays high-definition (HD) films. Critics often dismiss this as a white elephant, saying people are put off by the fact that they need to invest in an HD television to benefit from the Blu-ray player. And as cheaper, stand-alone Blu- ray players have hit the market, what could have been seen as a unique selling point has become less attractive – further increasing Sony’s woes.

Ed Barton, games analyst at Screen Digest, however, thinks Sony’s gamble on Blu-ray is a winning move. While he accepts that many people will opt to buy cheaper, entry-level Blu-ray players, he believes that “video consumers are likely to purchase the PS3 as the most cost-effective, future-proof Blu-ray player.” Another thing that could help the PS3 is the possibility that it will go 3D later this year. But what is most likely to get units flying off the shelves is a price cut. And this looks like a distinct possibility, as Sony has reduced PS3 production costs by 35 per cent. Nevertheless, there is no escaping the fact that the PlayStation division of Sony has lost a frightening $3.4 bn in the past two fiscal years. go to web site how to fix the red ring of death

The Wii – with its motion-sensitive remote control or “Wiimote”, which can be used as a sword, boxing glove, tennis racket or fishing rod depending on the game – has not only become a huge hit around the world, but has also helped bring gaming to a wider audience. The phenomenally successful Wii Fit game, which is primarily aimed at women and older people looking to lose weight and get fit, is a perfect example of this. Activities range from yoga to slalom skiing, and according to the blurb, the game will help “improve posture and strengthen your body”. Bundled with the game package is a wireless “balance board” on which you stand, sit or lie to perform the various exercises. The board tracks your centre of gravity and can also calculate your body mass index and level of fitness for your age. The Wii Fit is selling like wildfire, but to a new audience of casual gamers who respond well to its low price, easy- to-play games and non-threatening image.

The Xbox, on the other hand, continues to be perceived as the console for the hardcore gamer. Arguably, one of the reasons the Xbox 360 has trailed behind the Wii – despite a year’s head start – is down to it being plagued with problems in its early days. Hardware failures and the “Red Ring of Death” (three red lights on the Xbox’s power button signalling “core digital” failure) didn’t do much for its reputation.

Then there was the HD DVD misjudgement. When it first designed the 360, Microsoft put its money on the HD DVD format (whereas PlayStation put it on Blu-ray) and offered an external disc player for watching films. But the format went belly-up and Microsoft naturally stopped making the add-on. Right now, the Wii has market dominance. But future battle lines are likely to be drawn beyond the living room – in the realm of online services. Microsoft, for example, has created a thriving online Xbox Live market-place, which connects gamers via broadband to other gamers around the globe. It also lets you download games, free demos, movie trailers and HD movies.

The PS3 has its PlayStation Network, which offers online play for free (unlike Microsoft, which charges its Xbox 360 gamers via Microsoft Live). You can also download games, demos and videos – and watch streaming videos from sites such as Hulu.com in full-screen mode. Sony has also recently launched its much-anticipated – and delayed – PlayStation Home virtual world, which is similar to Second Life. It’s free to join and lets PS3 gamers chat, interact in the virtual environment and launch multi-player games.

Like the other two consoles, the Wii also connects users to the internet (via built-in Wi-Fi), opening up a variety of Wii channels for news, weather, games, and more. Plus you can download an Opera- based web browser, which costs 500 Wii points (3.75) and is also used to stream BBC iPlayer videos.

So who will win the console war in the long run? It remains to be seen. But legendary Japanese video game designer Tomonobu Itagaki makes no bones about it. He admits to admiring the Nintendo Wii’s dedication to innovation, but thinks that the “Xbox 360 is the best games console on the earth. It’s better than PlayStation 3.” So until the next generation of consoles is born, this war looks set to run and run.

Let the games begin The best bundles Xbox 360 Created by Microsoft Launched in UK in November 2005 Best price 176.19 for Arcade console only, Elite console with 120GB 227.59 from www.tdgstore.co.uk Game to play: ‘Gears of War 2′ Wii Created by Nintendo Launched in UK in December 2006 Best price 176.19 for console with Wii Sports game from www.amazon.co.uk Game to play: ‘Wii Fit’ PlayStation 3 Created by Sony Launched in UK in March 2007 Best price 293.61 for 40GB console with no games, 309.99 with ‘Call of Duty: World at War’ www.game.co.uk Game to play: ‘LittleBigPlanet’ Jimmy Lee Shreeve

12 comments posted

Comment Pages: [2] 1 » Show All

  1. May 1st, 2008 8:55 am

    your article is very nice you are solved my assignment problem i am very thank ful to for that

    thanks
    nazeer ahmed chachar
    nachachar@yahoo.com

  2. Kalidas Sawkar says:
    April 17th, 2008 11:52 am

    After many years, I just purchased a pack of dates inspite of being a diabetic. well being a health concious person to allay my fears I turned to Dr. Google where I read your excellant paper on dates. [Diabetes be damned] Beleive me, my mouth was set watering by your treatise on dates. This seems to be just the same as we Goans love fish.

    Goa, India

  3. jameel khan says:
    October 17th, 2007 12:05 pm

    I would like to import Medjool Palm trees into the U.S.A. Can anyone help me find an exporter? Thanks.

  4. Mike says:
    November 23rd, 2006 3:17 am

    Good information and nice read as well. I wonder what the best tasting date is though? There is probably to many to taste them all.

    I mainly eat Medjool dates provided from the California growers. They are one of my most favorite thing to eat in the world aside from sushi. I 1st tried them from Costco (a huge Market) and I have been hooked ever since. I will also try your dish as it sounds tasty. I was wondering if there was anymore date recipes you could post.

Comment Pages: [2] 1 » Show All



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