Don’t be fooled by their sweetness: Dried dates need to be washed, as they can carry a lot of surprises.
Most of us eat dried fruit right out of the package, just like we do chips and tortillas, and give little thought to how it got into our hands. But, after reading this article, chances are you will change your mind and adopt new habits.
You do need to wash dried dates before consuming them, according to Crystal Dates, one of the largest producers and exporters of Iranian dates. Dried dates’ sugary sweetness is tempting to consume right out of the bag. That said, unwashed dried dates can carry dust, germs, and even insects.
We will explain why you should always inspect and wash dried dates before eating them to prevent an, err… unpleasant experience—either from sickness or from other findings on/in the date—and continue to enjoy the natural sweetness of what’s been called “nature’s candy.”
Are You Supposed to Wash Dried Dates Before Eating Them?
Generally speaking, date producers advise consumers to wash dried dates before consuming them.
Dates travel long distances to get to the American household, with most imported dates arriving from the Middle East from countries, namely Iran and Iraq. During the trip, one can only imagine what the dates encounter before arriving at the grocery store.
If the dates are loose, it may be more obvious that they should be washed. Many hands touched those dates, from when they were picked off the date palm, to when they grocery stocker added them to the produce aisle. As with any other fruit or veg, inspect the dried date, and wash it thoroughly.
Packaged dried dates offer a bit more of a gray area when it comes to washing. In theory, the dried fruit was protected during its travels. However, most dates are not washed before they are dried, and their sticky nature attracts dust, plastic, and bugs.
In addition, many dates are heat-treated to speed up the drying process, which introduces chemicals that aren’t necessarily good for your health.
Why Should I Wash Dried Dates Before Eating Them?
Dates should be inspected and washed before you eat them because they could contain harmful bacteria, insects, and other contaminants. That said, you should also carefully inspect your dates. Dates should be mostly intact with few tears, have a shiny but wrinkly appearance, and be free of off-putting smells.
Dried dates can develop a white coating, but don’t toss them out just yet. This is likely sugar that’s risen to the surface of the date over time, and not mold. Dates have extremely low moisture content, which causes the sugar to move to the surface of the fruit.
If you bite into a date that tastes sour, you should throw it out. There are pests and other microorganisms that can contaminate dates and ruin them for eating.
Can Unwashed Dried Dates Make You Sick?
Just as unwashed fruits and veg can make you sick, so, too can dried fruit. Dried fruits, including some dried dates, are treated with pesticides during the growing process.
When you ingest unwashed dried dates, you are also ingesting these pesticides. The Pesticide Action Network claims one in every three women and one in two men will develop cancer over their lifetime, and pesticides are part of the reason why.
That said, even organic dried dates that aren’t treated with pesticides can make you sick. While eating a diet high in organic fruits and vegetables is good for you, it also exposes you to certain germs that can make you sick if you eat unwashed produce.
In addition, even organic fruits and veg must make the trip to your supermarket. Often, dried fruits are not protected from dust, exhaust fumes, and other things that fly through the air.
How Do I Prepare Dried Dates to Eat?
Dried dates do not need to be peeled. However, check the packaging on your dried dates carefully to understand whether the dates you purchased are pitted or still contain pits. If the dates contain pits, simply slice each open to remove the pit and discard it.
Check that the date’s appearance is in good condition, that it’s free of bruises or other damaged spots, and that the date smells sweet and not sour.
Crystal Dates recommends washing only as many dates as you plan to consume in a sitting or use in a recipe. If you wash all your dried dates at once and then store them in the refrigerator, they’ll start to get soggy and break down.
Wet dates can also begin to ferment if left wet in the refrigerator, so producers recommend washing only as many as you need, lest you want to make date alcohol!
Then, use the instructions below to wash your dried dates.
How Do I Wash Dried Dates?
To wash dried dates, begin by opening the package, then wash your hands thoroughly in warm, soapy water.
Next, prep a colander and a bowl of cool water. Make sure the water is not hot, as hot water will break down the dates and over time, turn them to mush.
Submerge the dates in the cold water and allow them to sit for a few minutes to loosen any contaminants or preservatives that might be coating them.
If you have a soft bristled toothbrush, you can use that on the dates to further remove anything that may be stuck to them.
Finally, give the dried dates a few tosses in the cold water, then move them to the colander for one final cold-water rinse.
Dry the dates with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel and let them finish drying in cold air.
We often give little thought to washing pre-packaged foods like natural fruits and veg, but when you compare them to the produce you find in the produce aisle, it’s easy to see why you should wash dried dates.
With proper inspection and a little prep work, you’ll be enjoying nature’s candy and reaping its health benefits in no time!