Dates seem to be enjoying a revival in this country probably due to closer associations with the Middle East. Basically, you have a revived fruit in town. Many years ago in the U.S., Dromedary was a popular distributor of dried dates in yellow boxes, and inside each box was a tiny plastic-like “camel,” which was actually the one-humped “camel,” the dromedary.
The history of dates goes back to 6000 BCE where archeologists have traced them to eastern Arabia. They were not introduced into Mexico or California until the Spaniards presented them in 1765. Now dates, especially the Medjool and Deglet Noor, are grown in Arizona and South Florida.
The date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is a palm in the genus Phoenix, cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. Each date is oval and approximately two inches long and ranges from bright red to yellow, depending upon its specie. They contain a single, oval seed or small stone and adapt three textures: the soft including the popular Medjool, the semi-dry which includes the Deglet Noor and the dry date, the Thoory date. Their type depends upon their glucose, fructose and sucrose amounts. Dates contain very little water, so their flavor is not greatly changed after drying. They do lose much of their vitamin C content, however.
Date palms can take 4 to 8 years after planting before they will bear fruit, and produce viable yields, up to 265 pounds per season, for 7 to 10 years. Date trees can be tapped for a sweet sap which converts into a molasses-type substance and is frequently fermented for alcoholic consumption.
Dates provide a wide range of essential nutrients, and are a very good source of dietary potassium. The sugar content of ripe dates is about 80%; the remainder consists of protein, fiber, and trace elements.
Select good dates when they are round or oblong and plump. They should not look wrinkled or withered, also no crystals should be evident on their surface. Fresh dates last for up to two weeks, refrigerated. Preserved dates last much longer.
Here are some food combinations using dates:
Stuff pitted dates with nuts, candied fruit, sesame paste, marzipan, cheese or mascarpone. Optional: Roll in confectioner’s sugar.
Date, cheese and bacon strudel
Chicken tamales with dates
Date and Nut Smoothies,
Ice cream, milkshakes
Pancakes and waffles, date syrup
In stuffings, casseroles, puddings, fruit cups, salads, salsas and chutneys
Spanish Jallab, pitted dates, nuts and bacon
Baked in cookies, breads, cakes, muffins
Crush and mix with chopped nuts for a tasty spread
Dip in chocolate
Cooked, young dates leaves as vegetable
Date palm flowers are edible in salads.
The following, in a very Middle Eastern way, combines local fruits, dates and olives, in interesting sweet and zesty flavor combinations:
Couscous with Clementines, Chickpeas, Olives, and Dates
Duck with Dates and Olives
Cauliflower with olives and dates
Date and Olive Tapanade
Bean, olive, date and cheese spread