Mother nature's candy, dates are more than just a sweet treat. These oft overlooked fruits also boast some surprising health benefits. Read on to find out why we want to start "dating" more often.
- Dates come from the date palm. Though native to northern Africa and the Middle East, the tree is now cultivated in other parts of the world as well, most notably California.
- Dates grow in heavy clusters that are suspended beneath the tree's leaves.
- Dates are known as the "bread of the desert" as they flourish in dry climates.
- Though most commonly enjoyed dried as a snack or in desserts, dates can also be eaten fresh.
- Dates are consumed at different stages of ripeness in different parts of the world. Here in North America, dates are typically eaten when they're almost fully ripe and brown in colour.
- Dates can actually quench your thirst thanks to their high potassium content, which helps the body perserve its water levels.
- Dates are very high in fibre.
- The abundance of natural sugars in dates means they offer an instant energy boost.
- Dates are easy to digest.
Trolling for Dates
- It's always best to buy organic, untreated dates. Some growers resort to finishing processes to make the fruit more plump and attractive; these never taste as good as natural dates that have been picked and sold in the same week.
- Fresh dates may be wrinkled but they shouldn't feel hard. Look for plump fruits with a slightly glossy sheen. Avoid those with crystallized sugar on their skins (these are too ripe), but a little white is okay.
- Store dates in a sealable container at room temperature for up to two months.
- Dates come in many varieties: Yellow Bahri dates are sweet and juicy and should be kept frozen until a few hours before consumption. Noor, a semi-dry, mild fruit, is the most common type of date and is often used in cooking. Finger-shaped Medjool dates are sweet like honey and come in small, medium and large sizes. Baking dates are a cheap alternative to fresh dates. Available at Middle Eastern groceries, it's essentially a thick paste made from pitted dates.
How to Enjoy a Date
- Dates are great on their own alongside a nice cup of tea or coffee.
- Try adding dates to salads or using them in a stuffing for chicken/pork.
- Serve dates pitted and stuffed with blue cheese as an appetizer at your next party.
- Did someone say date shake?!
- It's a classic for a reason: the delectable date square.