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In less than a week, Muslims around the world will be debating whether we start fasting on Monday or Tuesday and you’ll either find me in bed with a caffeine headache or pushing a grocery cart filled with pickles, gelato and hot Cheetos after running into the store to “just grab one thing” while fasting. It’s the start of Ramadan-the most sacred month of the year and a time of spiritual discipline for Muslims. While most Muslims observe daily fasting from dawn to sunset, many also dedicate this month to extra prayers, attending religious gatherings, and community service. And how could I forget to mention probably one of the most favorite parts of the month-the food.
Everyone prepares food a little differently in Ramadan. Meals range from simple and pure to the most elaborate and expansive spreads. But what probably stands out about these meals, more than the food, is people making an effort to come together, share a meal and build community. And when it comes to food, the most common theme we see across all tables is the thing in which Muslims break their fast with-water and dates.
As a Palestinian-American, I try to do my best to support Palestine through the products I buy. That means figuring out where my dates are from in Ramadan, which isn’t easy when you’re staring at 20 different brands with 20 different prices in a chaotic grocery store the day before Ramadan. My friends at Ziyad Brothers are making a great effort to support Palestine with the dates they source and sell across some of their lines. I visited their Chicago offices and warehouse last week to learn more about what they’re doing to support Palestinian date farms and provide Palestinian dates for consumers during Ramadan.
Ziyad Brothers is a Palestinian family-owned company based out of Southside of Chicago. While they have their own Ziyad brand of Middle Eastern products, they also own and distribute for a number of other Middle Eastern food brands. The 4 types of dates in the photo above are all sourced from Jericho, Palestine. The Ziyad company has their own farms, processing plant and distribution facility on the ground that is completely Palestinian employed and managed. So you not only support a Palestinian-owned company, but you are supporting the employment and economy of Palestinians.
Here’s a little more detail on the difference between the variety of dates:
The Ziyad Large Medjool dates have a firm texture and the skin is well-intact, but they are still tender and sweet. They’re your standard Medjool date.
The Palestine Medjool and Sultan Medjool are Jumbo in size. Each date is roughly 1 ounce in weight. The skin is thin and delicate and the date is very soft and sweet.
The Sultan Rutab are like candy and a variety that is a little more rare than the standard Medjool. They are extremely soft in texture and the sweet flavor has notes of caramel.
Most of these dates are offered in a variety of box sizes/weights ranging from small 2-pound boxes to family-sized 11-pound boxes. To keep the dates fresh, especially the very soft and sweet variety, you can store them in your refrigerator and bring them to room temperature before eating. To store them for a longer time, you can freeze them in an air-tight container or bag and then thaw the dates before eating.
Please consider using your buying power this Ramadan to support Palestinian farms, even in a small way like this. Encourage your local grocery stores to carry these products. Share the knowledge with your friends and family! Have a blessed Ramadan.