Sticky at Christmas, packed in serried rows around a plastic twig in an oval-ended paper-wrapped box with a picture of a camel train; dates in childhood were exotic. The mystery words Deglet Noor were as sweet to roll around the mouth as the fibrous fruit. But we learn from Dates – A Global History by Nawal Nasrallah (Reaktion Books, £9.99) that they are a staple food, comparable to wheat, potatoes and rice. The Edible Series focuses on one foodstuff per book. The result can be like an answer in a Chinese exam where everything known is written down, here in a prose style reminiscent of Wikipedia.Fortunately, pictures are a diverting element and the pleasingly graphic date palm, illustrative of the Tree of Life, as well as representing a child’s first stab at drawing a tree and providing a symbol for religious paintings, coins and bank notes, proves a rich source.