Sweet and saving date dishes for iftar, suhoor

Dates are a staple of the Ramadan table and a symbol of hospitality throughout the Middle East, where guests are traditionally greeted with dates and tea.

The fruit has been cultivated since prehistoric times and records of the earliest harvests can be traced to the Middle East, where the dry heat provides ideal conditions for date palms to grow.

Dates were an essential part of the nomadic diet, providing a significant amount of fiber and a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Eaten both fresh and dried, the latter provided sustenance on long overland journeys. The prophet Mohammed was said to begin his Ramadan iftar with either three or five dates and many Muslims follow suit as the quickly available sugar helps to balance blood sugar after a day of fasting.

Dates are a delicious and convenient treat on their own, but they can also play a starring role in hearty savory recipes. Below are a few of my favorite savory date recipes that are perfect for iftar, suhoor or anytime of year.

Locally grown:How volunteers are preserving unique taste of Arizona date history

Adas polo with tahdig recipe

Adas polo is a Persian rice dish made with lentils and dates.

This lentil- and date-studded basmati rice is a classic Iranian recipe. While some people also like to add ground meat, my mother-in-law’s recipe is vegetarian. And why not? There’s plenty of protein in the lentils. The resulting dish offers a gorgeous variety of textures and sweet, savory flavors. It’s hearty enough to be a meal on its own, but also makes a great accompaniment to grilled meats and vegetables.

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