Fruit of the month: Date

The date is the fruit of the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) from the family of palm. In the Gambia, the date fruit is called tandarma in Wolof and tamaro in Mandinka.

The date is a drupe or stone fruit with a single seed surrounded by outer flesh, similar to olive or peach. The tree is similar to a palm or coconut tree. The meat of the fruit is soft, aromatic and sweet. It is elongated in shape with a longitudinal furrow. It is golden yellow in colour and reddish-brown when ripe. The date can be stored for several months or even a year.

It is cultivated for its edible sweet flesh, and it’s imported to The Gambia from Morocco, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Dates can be consumed fresh or dry.

In The Gambia, dates are popular during the Ramadan period when imported into the country in large amounts. The Gambians use the date during Ramadan for breaking their fast after a whole day of keeping away from food or water. This is as per the teaching of the Prophet Muhammad, who himself broke his fast with three dates. The date is not a seasonal fruit as it is available all year round. You can buy it at the market or supermarkets. During Ramadan, you can find it on every street by the fruit sellers.

You can have it for as low as five, ten or up to 300 dalasis. It is sometimes used for flavouring desserts. Most importantly, dates are second to cola nuts in The Gambia. They are also used as gifts for asking for a bride’s hand in marriage. Some believe the marriage can be as sweet as the date when it is used to ask for the bride’s hand in marriage. This custom is not very popular, though.

The health benefits of dates are known throughout. It is medically agreed that the date is rich in iron, carbohydrates, fibre, and it contains no fat. It is also rich in other minerals such as magnesium and potassium. It is very nutritious. It serves as a disease-fighting antioxidant. The locals believe eating dates during pregnancy supplies iron to the woman and helps during childbirth.

When you come to The Gambia around this time of the year, you cannot miss this fruit during your stay.

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