History of dates
History of dates Dates have been a staple food of the Middle East for thousands of years. It 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 archeological 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.
The Dates Harvest The dates season really begins early in the year when we clean up the trees after the end of the dormant period. At this time, we have to start by cutting the thorns off of the dates fronds. They say that everything in the desert protects itself by stinging, biting, or poking. And the dates trees are no different. They have thorns that are approximately 4 to 5 inches long, and can easily pierce thru a truck tire. So the very first thing we do is to remove the thorns to make it possible to work in the dates trees. Although many dates farms still use ladders, we use a U-Shaped basket on a forklift to reach the dates. We will be able to utilize this method until the trees are approx. 40 ft. tall. The forklift will be parked at the base of the tree, so that the tree trunk is positioned between the forks. The basket will then be lifted to an appropriate height so the dates can be easily harvested. As the basket is being lifted into the tree, the pickers are holding plastic trays that will be suspended from a branch so that they will hang underneath the dates bunch while they harvest the dates. Once the trays are in place the pickers will untie the bottom of the bags covering the dates and shake out any dates that have already ripened and fallen off the strands. If you look at the bag to the far left side of the picture, you can see that all of the dates have ripened and fallen to the bottom of the bag. This is unusual, as most Midol dates have to be individually removed from the strands by hand.) Once the tray is full, it will be lowered down and an empty tray will be sent back up. The full trays will be emptied into a larger screened tray, and then taken to the processing area for sorting. The dates are brought in from the grove in either these large wooden screen trays, or else in smaller black plastic trays. Most of the dates come in from the grove already ripe, but occasionally we get some that are still yellow. These yellow dates have to be left out in the heat (not the sun) to finish ripening. (We do receive a lot of requests for “yellow dates” but we don’t sell them at that stage because it is impossible to guarantee that the dates will not have finished ripening by the time they are received.) The dates that have to be left in the heat to ripen have to be sorted individually as each date will ripen at it’s own pace. The dates are then emptied from the trays onto a shaker table that rocks gently back and forth. The table is covered in wet terry cloth towels. As the dates roll very slowly down the table, they are cleaned by the wet towels. (Of course, the towels are changed frequently throughout the day.) The dates then roll onto a conveyor belt where they will be sorted by size and quality. From there the dates are then packed and moved into cold storage until they are sold.
The Sex Life of a Dates
The Sex Life of a Dates Dates Palms are unique in that they are either a male tree or a female tree. The male trees produce pollen, and the female trees produce flowers. Unfortunately, neither birds nor bees are attracted to the flowers, so the females have to be hand pollinated. During the later part of February we begin to watch for the sheaths on the male trees to begin splitting open. We check each tree every single day. As soon as a sheath on a male tree begins to open, it is tied with string to hold it together, and removed from the tree. Here you get a much better view of the pollen because the sheath is split wide open. Once the sheath on the male tree opens, we will cut the whole sheath out of the tree, and then hang it upside down to dry. Once the pollen has dried to a very fine powder, we sift it into a large air-tight container for storage. A male sheath that has been removed from the tree. Notice the small split where it is starting to break open. This sheath probably weighs close to 10 pounds. The female trees have the same kind of sheath, and as they begin to flower, we will remove the sheath and separate each strand. We then tie the strands together and hand pollinates the flowers using the fresh pollen that we have collected from the male trees. We use a small ketchup squirt bottle for this process. We pollinate each female tree at least three times. Around April or May, as the fruit begins to “bud” on the strands, we will begin the thinning process. First, we open up each bunch of strands that we have tied together, and cut out the middle, leaving only the outside strands. Then we remove about 90% of the dates from each strand. This allows better air flow and the chance for each individual dates to grow to its optimum size. It is not unusual for the temperatures to be above 100 degrees during May when we are thinning and closer to 120 degrees during the dates harvest, so most of our dates workers will wear long sleeved shirts and long pants, and cover their faces with bandannas to protect themselves from both the sun and the heat. This is a strand of Midol Dates before being thinned. By removing the majority of the dates, the ones that are left will have enough room to grow to a March larger size.
Watering & Irrigating
Watering & Irrigating Dates trees take as much water as a willow tree, yet they cannot tolerate rain or humidity. That’s why dates have to be grown in the hot desert, where our average rainfall is less then 3 inches per year, and our summer temperatures reach in excess of 120 degrees. The ground around the dates trees has to be kept clear of grass and weeds which cause humidity. Special “borders” are built up around the trees in order to flood irrigate and contain the water at the root of the tree. This special border dicker scoops up the sand and forms a border around the dates trees. These borders keep the water where it is needed, at the root of the dates trees. Each tree requires approximately nine acre-feet of water per year, but only at its roots! You could think of it as someone who likes to wade in the water, but doesn’t want to get their hair wet! The borders help conserve water and eliminate grass and weeds throughout the grove. Bags & Bunches Our foreman is holding a small “bunch” of dates that has been cut down from the tree. Notice the thickness of the main stalk. This picture was taken early last August, before the dates had ripened. A bunch of dates just prior to the dates harvest. Around the beginning of August, the Midol Dates are covered with a white muslin bag to protect the dates from birds and insects. The bags also help to catch any dates that ripen prior to the beginning of the dates harvest. Because each bunch is quite heavy, the fronds below the dates bunches are positioned to help hold the weight of the dates.
Transplanting Dates Pups
Transplanting Dates Pups All of our dates trees are grown from pups (offshoots from the parent tree). This guarantees that both the tree and the fruit produced will be identical to the parent. It takes between 6 to 8 years before the pups will be big enough to transplant, and then another six or seven years before they will begin to produce. To make it easier to separate the pups from the parent tree, we have attached a special chisel to the backhoe. The backhoe can exert quite a bit more force then an individual worker. A dates pup partially separated from its parent tree. After the new pups have been planted, they are given a “flat top” haircut, and wrapped in cardboard to protect the heart. They will receive a constant flow of water thru a drip irrigation system.
Origin and Distribution
Origin and Distribution The dates palm is believed to have originated in the lands around the Persian Gulf and in ancient times was especially abundant between the Nile and Euphrates rivers. Alphonse de Condole claimed that it ranged in prehistoric times from Senegal to the basin of the Indus River in northern India, especially between latitudes 15 and 30. There is archeological evidence of cultivation in eastern Arabia in 4,000 B.C. It was much revered and regarded as a symbol of fertility, and depicted in bas relief and on coins. Literature devoted to its history and romance is voluminous. Nomads planted the dates at oases in the deserts and Arabs introduced it into Spain. It has long been grown on the French Riviera, in southern Italy, Sicily and Greece, though the fruit does not reach perfection in these areas. Possibly it fares better in the Cape Verde Islands, for a program of dates improvement was launched there in the late 1950’s Iraq has always led the world in dates production. Presently, there are 22 million dates palms in that country producing nearly 600,000 tons of dates annually. The Basra area is renowned for its cultivars of outstanding quality. The dates has been traditionally a staple food in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, the Sudan, Arabia and Iran. Blotter quotes the writer, Vogel, as stating: “When Abdel-Gelil besieged Sucking in 1824, he cut down no fewer than 43,000 trees, to compel the town to surrender; nevertheless, there are still at least 70,000 left.” In 1980, production in Saudi Arabia was brought to nearly a half-million tons from 11 million palms because of government subsidies, improved technology, and a royal decree that dates be included in meals in govern mint and civic institutions and that hygienically-packed dates be regularly available in the markets. Farmers receive financial rewards for each offshoot of a high-quality dates planted at a prescribed spacing. The Ministry of Agriculture has established training courses throughout the country to teach modern agricultural methods, including mechanization of all possible operations in dates culture, and recognition and special roles of the many local cultivars. In West Africa, near the Sahara, only dry, sugary types can be grown. Batavia introduced seeds of 26 kinds of dates from the Near East into northern India and Pakistan in 1869; and, in 1909, D. Milne, the Economic Botanist for the Punjab, introduced offshoots and established the dates as a cultivated crop in Pakistan. The fruits ripen well in northwestern India and at the Fruit Research Center in Saharan. In southern India, the climate is unfavorable for dates production. A few trees around Behold in the Philippines are said to bear an abundance of fruits of good quality. The dates palm has been introduced into Australia, and into northeastern Argentina and Brazil where it may prosper in dry zones. Some dates are supplying fruits for the market on the small island of Margarita off the coast from northern Venezuela. Seed-propagated dates are found in many tropical and sub-tropical regions where they are valued as ornamentals but where the climate is unsuitable for fruit production. In November 1899, 75 plants were sent from Algiers to Jamaica. They were kept in a nursery until February 1901 and then 69 were planted at Hope Gardens. The female palms ultimately bore large bunches of fruits but they were ready to mature in October during the rainy season and, accordingly, the fruits rotted and fell. Only occasionally have dates palms borne normal fruits in the Bahamas and South Florida. Spanish explorers introduced the dates into Mexico, around Sonora and Somalia, and Baja California. The palms were only seedlings. Still, the fruits had great appeal and were being exported from Baja California in 1837. The first dates palms in California were seedlings planted by Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries in 1769. Potted offshoots from Egypt reached California in 1890 and numerous other introductions have been made into that state and into the drier parts of southern Arizona around Tempe and Phoenix. In 1912, Paul and Wilson Propane purchased a total of 16,000 offshoots of selected cultivars in Algeria, eastern Arabia and Iraq and transported them to California for distribution by their father, F.O. Propane who was a leader in encouraging dates culture in California. It became a profitable crop, especially in the Coachella Valley. There are now about a quarter of a million bearing Trees in California and Arizona.
Dates Climate & Soil
Dates Climate The dates palm must have full sun. It cannot live in the shade. It will grow in all warm climates where the temper nature rarely falls to 20°F (-6.67°C). When the palm is dormant, it can stand temperatures that low, but when in flower or fruit the mean temperature must be above 64°F (17.78°C). Commercial fruit production is possible only where there is a long, hot growing season with daily maximum temperatures of 90°F (32.22°C) and virtually no rain—less than 1/2 in (1.25 cm) in the ripening season. The dates can tolerate long periods of drought though, for heavy bearing, it has a high water requirement. This is best supplied by periodic flooding from the rivers in North Africa and by subsurface water rather than by rain. (See remarks on irrigation under “Culture”). Soil The dates thrives in sand, sandy loam, clay and other heavy soils. It needs good drainage and aeration. It is remarkably tolerant of alkali. A moderate degree of salinity is not harmful but excessive salt will stunt growth and lower the quality of the fruit.
Dates Ripening Some high-quality dates are picked individually by hand, but most are harvested by cutting off the entire cluster. In North Africa, the harvesters climb the palms, use forked sticks or ropes to lower the fruit clusters, or they may pass the clusters carefully down from hand to hand. Growers in California and Saudi Arabia use various mechanized means to expedite harvesting-saddles, extension ladders, or mobile steel towers with catwalks for pickers. All fruits in a cluster and all clusters on a palm do not ripen at the same time. A number of pickings may have to be made over a period of several weeks. In the Coachella Valley, dates ripen from late September through December and there are 6 to 8 pickings per palm. Dates go through 4 stages of development: 1) Chirm, or Kari, stage, the first 17 weeks after pollination: green, hard, bitter, 80% moisture, 50% sugars (glucose and fructose) by dry weight; 2) Kuala stage, the next 6 weeks: become full grown, still hard; color changes to yellow, orange or red, sugars increase, become largely sucrose; 3) Rota stage, the next 4 weeks: half-ripe; soften, turn light brown; some sucrose reverts to reducing sugar which gains prominence; 4) Tamar stage: ripe; the last 2 weeks; in soft dates, the sugar becomes mostly reducing sugar; semi-dry and dry dates will have nearly 50% each of sucrose and reducing sugars. Soft dates may be picked early while they are still light colored. Semi dry dates may be picked as soon as they are soft and then ripened artificially at temperatures of 80° to 95°F (26.67°-35°C), depending on the cultivar. Dry dates may be left on the palm until they are fully ripe. Dry dates that have become too dehydrated and hardened on the palm are dehydrated by soaking in cold, tepid or hot water, or by exposure to steam or a humid atmosphere. Extremely dry weather will cause dates to shrivel on the palm. In the Sudan, the fruits are picked when just mature and then are ripened in jars to prevent so much loss of moisture. Rain, high humidity or cool temperatures during the maturing period may cause fruit drop or checking, splitting of the skin, darkening, black nose, imperfect maturation, and excessive moisture content, or even rotting. Under such adverse weather conditions, as may occur in the Salt River Valley, Arizona, dates must be harvested while still immature and ripened artificially. In the Old World, there are many different methods of doing this: storing in earthen jars, placing the jars in sun hot enough to prevent spoilage, boiling the fruits in water and then sun drying. In Australia, entire clusters are kept under cover with the cut end of the stalk in water until the fruits are fully ripe. In modern packing houses, prematurely harvested dates are ripened in controlled atmospheres, the degrees of temperature and humidity varying with the nature of the cultivar. Where there is low atmospheric humidity outdoors and adequate sunshine, harvested dates is sun dried whole or cut in half. For fresh shipment in California, the normally ripe, harvested fruits are carried to packing plants, weighed, inspected by agents of the United States Department of Agriculture, fumigated, cleaned, graded, packed, stored under refrigeration, and released to markets according to demand. Saudi Arabia has constructed a number of extra-modern processing plants for fumigation, washing, drying, and packing of dates prior to cold storage.
Dates Keeping Quality
Dates Keeping Quality Slightly under ripe ‘Delete Nor’ dates will keep at 32°F (0°C) up to 10 months; fully mature, for 5 to 6 months. Freezing will extend the storage life for a much longer period. In India, sun-dried dates, buried in sand, have kept well for 1 1/2 years and then have been devoured by worms. Pests and Diseases Unripe fruits are attacked by Cockatrices daclyliperda which makes them fall prematurely. Ripe fruits are often infested by nitidulids—Carpophilus hemipterus, C. multilatus (C. dimidiatus), Urophorus humeralis, and Heptoncus luteolus, which cause decay. Control by insecticides is necessary to avoid serious losses. In Israel, the fruit clusters are covered with netting to protect them from such pests as Vespa orientalis, Cadra figulilella and Arenipes sabella as well as from depredations by lizards and birds. In Pakistan, the red weevil, or Indian palm weevil, Rhynchophorus ferrugineus, bores into the leaf bases at the top of the trunk, causing the entire crown to wither and die. The rhinocereus beetle, or black palm beetle, Oryctes rhinocerus, occasionally attacks the dates. Its feeding damage may provide entrance-ways for the weevil. Scale insects may infest the leaves and the trunk. They have been controlled by trimming off the heavily infested leaves, spraying the remaining ones, and treating the fire resistant trunk with a blowtorch. Two of the most destructive scales are the Marlatt scale, Phoenicoccus marlatti; which attacks the thick leaf bases, and the Parlatoria scale, Parlatoria blanchardii, which is active in summer. The latter was the object of an eradication campaign in California and Arizona in the late 1930’s. The dates mite scars the fruits while they are still green. A tineid moth and a beetle, Lasioderma testacea, have damaged stored dates in the Punjab. Dates held in storage are subject to invasion by the fig-moth, Ephestia cautella, and the Indian meal-moth, Plodia interpunctella. Fusarium albumins cause the disastrous Bayou, or Bayou, disease in Morocco and Algeria. It is evidenced by a progressive fading and wilting of the leaves. Over a 9-year study period of 26 resistant varieties in Morocco, Bayou disease reduced the planting density from 364 palms per acre (900/ha) to 121 to 142 per acre (300-350/ha). It is because of this disease that ‘Midol’ can no longer be grown commercially in Morocco and Algeria. Decay of the inflorescence is caused by Manginiella scaeltae in humid seasons. Several brown stains will be seen on the unopened spathe and the pedicels of the opened cluster will be coated with white “down”. Palm leaf pustule, small, dark-brown or black cylindrical eruptions exoding yellow spores, resulting from infestation by the fungus Graphiola phoenicis, is widespread but often a serious problem in Egypt. Dates palm decline may be physiological or the result of a species of the fungus genus Omphalia. Diplodia disease is a fungus manifestation on leafstalks and offshoots and it may kill the latter if not controlled. The fungus caused condition called “black scorch” stunts, distorts and blackens leaves and adjacent inflorescences. Other fungus diseases include pinhead spot (Diderma effusum), gray blight (Pestalotia palmarum) and spongy white rot (Polyporus adustus). The dates, as well as its relative, Phoenix canariensis Hort. ex Chaub., has shown susceptibility to lethal yellowing in Florida and Texas. No commercial plantings have been affected.
Dates other uses &Traditional medicinal
Dates other uses Dates Palm stump showing the wood structure. Dates seeds are soaked and ground up for animal feed. Their oil is suitable for use in soap and cosmetics. They can also be processed chemically as a source of oxalic acid. The seeds are also burned to make charcoal for silversmiths, and can be strung in necklaces. Dates seeds are also ground and used in the manner of coffee beans, or as an additive to coffee. Dates palm leaves are used for Palm Sunday in Christian religion. In North Africa, they are commonly used for making huts. Mature leaves are also made into mats, screens, baskets and fans. Processed leaves can be used for insulating board. Dried leaf petioles are a source of cellulose pulp, used for walking sticks, brooms, fishing floats and fuel. Leaf sheaths are prized for their scent, and fibre from them is also used for rope, coarse cloth, and large hats. The leaves are also used as a lulav in the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Stripped fruit clusters are used as brooms. In Pakistan, a viscous, thick syrup made from the ripe fruits is used as a coating for leather bags and pipes to prevent leaking. Dates palm wood is used for posts and rafters for huts; it is lighter than coconut and not very durable. It is also used for construction such as bridges and aqueducts, and parts of dhows. Leftover wood is burnt for fuel. Where craft traditions still thrive, such as in Oman, the palm tree is the most versatile of all indigeneous plants, and virtually every part of the tree is utilised to make functional items ranging from rope and baskets to beehives, fishing boats, and traditional dwellings. Traditional medicinal uses Dates have a high tannin content and are used medicinally as a detersive (having cleansing power) and astringent in intestinal troubles. As an infusion, decoction, syrup, or paste, dates may be administered for sore throat, colds, bronchial catarrh, and taken to relieve fever and number of other complaints. One traditional belief is that it can counteract alcohol intoxication. The seed powder is also used in some traditional medicines.
Dates Diseases &Dates Processing
Dates Diseases Dates Palms are susceptible to a disease called Bayoud disease which is caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum. This disease, which kills many of the popular older cultivars like ‘Deglet Noor’, has led to a major decline in production where it is present, notably Morocco and western Algeria. However, new cultivars resistant to the disease are being developed. Fresh, uncooked Dried Calories 142 274 293 Moisture 31.9 78.5 g 7.0 26.1 Protein 0.9 2.6 g 1.7 3.9 g Fat 0.6 1.5 g 0.1 1.2 g Carbohydrates 36.6 g 72.9 77.6 g Fiber 2.6 4.5 g 2.0 8.5 g Ash 0.5 2.8 g 0.5 2.7 g Calcium 34 mg 59 103 mg Phosphorus 350 mg 63 105 mg Iron 6.0 mg 3.0 13.7 mg Potassium ? 648 mg Vitamin A (ß carotene) 110-175 mcg 15.60 mg Thiamine ? 0.03 0.09 mg Riboflavin ? 0.10 0.16 mg Niacin 4.4-6.9 mg 1.4 2.2 mg Tryptophan ? 10 17 mg Ascorbic Acid 30 mg 0 Dates Processing The statistics of lands used for cultivating and producing Dates from 1981 to 1999: Subject 1981 1999 Overall increase Yearly increase Hectares of lands under cultivation 65250 217765 334% 13% Dates production(tons) 231523 918131 397% 16.5% Dates produced(ton/ hectare) 3883 5190 33% 1.87% Looking through Dates commercial information from 1981 to 1999: Iran with exporting 12426 tons of dates was the third country in the world after S. Arabia and Iraq in 1981 but upgraded to the first position with exporting 134508.2 tons in 1994. Unfortunately, Iran ranks the last from the point of price value increase. Dates was sold 0.2 dollars per kg at the beginning and 50% decrease in observed from 1994 to 1998; as Dates export has been estimated 51050.9 tons. It is to be mentioned that the trend has increased to 58156.6 tons in 1999…
Dates packaging and processing
Dates packaging and processing potentialities today As far as, we have a yearly production of 950.000 tons, processing units in the country could apply about 400.000 tons. According to the statistics of the ministry of industry, only 17 certified units are working with 22630 tons of production. And there are 3 units with 6150 tons capacity, establishment certificates and installed machineries, which have not started working yet. 121 units with establishment certificates and 444890 tons capacity are ready for producing Dates juice and packaging. According to FAO, Subjects World Iran Iran/ world Rank Hectares of lands under cultivation in 1997 786.905 176.000 21% 1st Dates production in 1997(ton) 464.6120 tons 875.000 18% 1st Dates produced in 1 hectare 5897 5026 85% Egypt 1st Export in 1996 322.129 100.000 Export revenue in 1996($) 788.370 40.000 877.000 tons of Dates is produced in the country each year, which 520.000 tons is surplus and could be used in processing industries. Sugar production of the country is about 640.000 and its consumption is 1.550.000 tons a year. Thus, 900.000 tons of sugar should be imported each year. Dates surplus production could be processed to 312.000 tons of liquid sugar (dates liquid or Dates juice), and this is as much as one third of the imported sugar. Producing a kg Dates liquid has 1400 Rails expenditure and 1 kg sugar is sold 2200 Rails without transportation cost. 1 ton of imported sugar costs 290 $ (1750 Rails per dollar) and 1 ton of Dates liquid is 500-600 $ in the world market. Hence, summing each ton as 500 $, we would save 56 million dollars. Dates liquid could be used in making sweets, beverages, ice cream, chocolate, and etc.
Health Tips 1. Dates are loaded with the energy you need every day – to win a marathon or get you through a tough day. With only 24 calories per dates (248 per 100 gram serving), dates are high in dietary fiber, carbohydrates, and contain more potassium than bananas! Yet they are virtually fat, cholesterol and sodium free! 2. Dates provide essential vitamins and minerals – such as B-complex vitamins, magnesium and iron. Only a handful of dates – five or six – will help you meet your 5-A-Day goal for fruit. 3. A handful of dates will help you meet the 5-A-Day goal. Five to six delicious dates or a cup of chopped dates equals one serving. Great tasting, power-packed California dates are part of the USDA Pyramid’s food group. Eating dates can help you achieve the recommended goal for fruit servings each day. 4. The American Cancer Society recommends that you consume 20-35 grams of dietary fiber a day. Dietary fiber comes in two forms – soluble and insoluble. Each serves a valuable function. Insoluble fiber increased the rate at which food moves through the digestive system. Soluble fiber may help control diabetes by decreasing elevated blood glucose levels. Soluble fiber also had been found to help lower serum cholesterol levels, particularly undesirable loud density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. California dates are a good source of dietary fiber. A serving of power-packed dates – just 5 to 6 six dates – can provide 3 grams of dietary fiber. That’s 14 percent of your recommended daily value. 5. A serving of power-packed dates contains 31 grams of carbohydrates, making them a powerhouse of energy. Carbohydrates include 3 grams of dietary fiber and 29 grams of naturally occurring sugars such as fructose, glucose and sucrose to provide quick energy and are readily used by the body. Dates are a perfect energy boosting snack. 6. Ounce per ounce, pound for pound, dates are one of the best natural sources of potassium. Potassium is an essential mineral your body needs to maintain muscle contractions including the vital heart muscle. Potassium is needed to maintain a healthy nervous system and to balance the body’s metabolism. Since potassium is not stored in the body, and much is lost in perspiration, it must be continually replenished. As you consume potassium you excrete sodium, helping to keep blood pressure down. As people age, their kidneys become less efficient at eliminating sodium. About a 400 mg increase in potassium intake has been associated with a 40% reduction in the risk of stroke. This roughly amounts to one additional serving daily of California dates. 7. Eating dates and drinking water is an ideal, natural way to replenish the potassium. A serving of dates contain 240 milligrams of potassium or 7% of the recommended daily value. Bite for bite, they have three times the amount of potassium as bananas! 8. Dates contain a variety of B-complex vitamins – thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 and antithetic acid. These vitamins have a variety of functions that help maintain a healthy body – to metabolize carbohydrates and maintain blood glucose levels, fatty acids for energy, and they help make hemoglobin, the red and white blood cells. 9. Magnesium is essential for healthy bone development and for energy metabolism. One serving of dates provides 4% of the suggested daily intake of magnesium. Iron is essential to red blood cell production. Red blood cells carry all the nutrients to cells throughout the body. One serving of dates contains nearly a third of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for iron.