Red dates come from a traditional Chinese specialty tree species which is native to China. Also known as jujubes, they are often used in Chinese dishes and drinks for their nutritious health benefits and as a natural sweetener.
Red dates have a history of more than 8,000 years. Back then, red dates or also known as jujubes were already used to create wine through fermentation. It has been regarded as one of the most nutritional ingredient even during the ancient times. These days, fresh red dates are available during autumn. They are crunchy, green in colour and have a similar taste and texture of an apple.
Once dried, they are wrinkled and changed into maroon coloured fruits. Jujubes come in many grades where some have higher content of vitamins or softer texture compared to others. Dried red dates which are further processed in smoke are called black dates. Generally, they are simply very resistant towards drought and rot. Red dates from Xinjiang, China are prized for its best quality compared to those found in other cities.
The consumption of red dates had spread out of China since the ancient times. In countries such as Malaysia or Singapore, the Chinese community enjoys adding red dates to dishes and soups as sweeteners, reaping their natural health benefits. These days, jujubes are used in meals, snacks and also as garnishing. They are easily available and inexpensive.
The health benefits of red dates or jujubes are aplenty. It is said that they are the fruits to cure all sicknesses. They are natural vitamin boosters. Besides consisting of vitamin A, vitamin C, organic acids and many other nutritional values, red dates are believed to aid in curing and improving many health issues.
According to the values of Chinese Traditional Medicine, red dates help to nourish the yin (cold) and replenish the yang (heat) in the body to balance the Qi. It is said to boost the production of white blood cells which helps to improve the body's immune system to fend off sickness. It is no wonder that they are classified as super fruits as these nutritious dates are also great for those who constantly have bad tummies, fatigue and imbalanced hormones. It is believed to help suppress cancer cells and protect the body when consuming harsher herbal medication.
Red dates are very popular among women as they also promote good skin. It is believed to have anti-aging properties as well as aiding the skin to be more rosy, smoother and fairer.
How to Choose
Look for red dates which are full, thick and uniformed in size. They should also have a maroonish appearance. Big plumed red dates (大枣) are sweeter compared to small red dates (鸡心枣). Dried red dates are also sold pitted but this may cause the insides to dry up. Therefore, it is recommended to buy red dates which are not pitted. Remove the seeds just before cooking as they create ‘heat’ which may cause an imbalance of the yin and yang in the body.
Red dates should be kept in the refrigerator to retain their freshness. They can also be kept frozen. It is best to consume them within one year from the date of purchase.
How to Use or Prepare
Step 1 of 2
Rinse red dates with water before using. Optionally, soak red dates in warm water for 30 minutes to soften them.
Step 2 of 2
Remove seeds of red dates before adding to soups/dishes or just steep them in hot water and drink as a tea. Dried red dates can also be eaten as they are.