What is this in my Date?
The unfortunate truth for many date lovers and fig lovers too is that these deliciously tasting fruits are susceptible to being tainted by bugs and black mold. This is a side of the date industry that is not talked about all that much, and for good reason. Nobody likes talking about nasty critters or black unknown powdery stuff in their food. We will try and bring some clarity to this problem as well as some things you can do to ensure you are not biting into a date that might contain some foreign elements.
Please forgive me for the lack of pictures in this blog post.
Bugs in Dates
The bugs you may find in dates can vary. Some might be fruit flies and many other various insects that will feed on fruit. Insects in dates are more prone to be in organically grown dates due to the lack of spraying. In most cases those that eat organic look at insects as a good sign that the fruit is in raw form...if it's good enough for the bugs, it's good enough for me. Date growers do shield the dates by using bags to prevent insets and other critters from ruining their date crop. These bags also serve another purpose in protecting the dates from burning in the hot desert sun. We get asked a lot if thee bugs will hurt you if accidentally swallowed and of course we are not doctors, but we have eaten our fair share of "natural protein" found in dates.
Medjool Dates Rung and Covered
What's the Black Mold in Dates?
The perfect environment for growing dates are hot extremely dry climates that receive very little rain fall. Moisture is a killer for date crops. And this black dust is exactly that, it's excessive moisture that has caused the date to turn. In an effort to ensure that the dates growing on the stem have ample amount of air flow they will thin date clusters. This allows for proper air circulation around the date and the dryness to settle in to prevent mold growth. This is the main reason why fruit date production thrives in the desert southwest and in other dry places like Iraq, Saudia Arabia and Iran. Actually, date fruits growing on date cluster need several days of 100 degree weather to ensure proper development and reduce the likelihood of moisture. On a side note, Yuma, Arizona is in the Guinness Book of Worlds Record for being the "Sunniest City in the World". Does this fact lend to higher quality dates coming out of this region....you be the judge. But, I digress, back to the black stuff in your date. Simply put, dry growing conditions equals less moisture for mold to exist, wet environment equals black dust (mold).
Why are the Dates Being Sold in this Condition?
There is simply no way for date growers to inspect the inside of a date for contamination. Here at Whole Fresh Dates we do random inspections when packing our dates, but it's not a catch all. Anywhere you buy your dates, you will have an issue at one point in time. No packer or grower is immune to mold or insects. It's important to note, no one variety of date is immune to bugs or moisture. They are all as equally prone based on growing conditions.
Here's What YOU Can Do:
Those that have eaten dates for sometime know that you just don't bite into a date. You need to peel it apart and open it up. Always open your dates prior to biting into them. This is a process that all date lovers either know or have learned over the years of eating dates. I typically will pick out several dates that I'm going to eat slice long ways from the top of the date toward the bottom. Split it open, remove the date and then wash thoroughly regardless if I see anything or not.
The 100% sure fire way to reduce this issue is to purchase our pitted dates. At Whole Fresh Dates we manually hand pit our dates and inspect on packing. A majority of people who purchase our pitted dates purchase for this reason and the fact they don't have to deal with the pit.
We hope that we have shed some light on this and not totally turned you off to eating dates. The benefits of dates and delectable tastiness of them are enough to keep you hooked on them.