Sunday, March 4, 2018

Let's Talk About Dates...the small, brown, oval-shaped dates that grow on palm trees

With Valentine’s Day nicely tucked away for another year I thought it would be a good time to talk about dates.  No, not the date who showered you with good food, chocolates and red wine on February 14th, but the small, brown, oval-shaped dates that grow on date palm trees.

It was during the Christmas season.  Tired and hungry, I managed to drag myself into the local grocery store to buy MORE groceries to cook MORE meals for the family.  I walked into the produce department and spotted a big box of Medjool dates at a ridiculously low price.  Instantly, I was flooded with a past memory of a date I’d eaten…it was moist, slightly chewy but smooth and full of succulent sugar. It tasted better than candy and gave me a jolt of energy.

Now, I don’t often buy dates for snacks, but I do enjoy eating them. So, on impulse, I snatched up the container without checking the best before date or the quality and threw it into my cart. I'd hoped to rejuvenate my energy and sate my hunger enough to give me strength to cook for yet another day.  

Instead, I ended up with an abundance (it was a two pound box!) of past-their-prime, shrivelled and dried-out dates. Note to self, don’t buy a two pound box of Medjool dates on impulse, look at products before you buy them, and be leery of food that is priced super low.
Benefits Of Dates 
Dates are a great snack

Dates are the fruit of a desert palm that originated over 5,000 years ago in Middle Eastern and African oases.  There are many different varieties that differ in size, shape, color, flavour and ripening schedule.  When purchasing dates to eat look for ones that are moist, squishy, slightly chewy, and have that smooth texture that keeps you coming back for more. When you bite into a luscious date you’re hit with an immediate energy rush because one dried date is 60-80% sugar… no wonder I wanted them! It’s a lot of sugar (but natural sugar) and is consequently packed with calories:  4 dates weigh 100 grams and have 280 calories. Eek!

I actually didn’t know this until I read the label on the box (a good reason to read your food labels).  Not only did I find out they were filled with sugar, I also learned to refrigerate dates for freshness and to rinse them before using.  Who knew?

So, what did I do with that two pound box of dried-out dates?  I wasn’t going to eat them like candy, so I started throwing dates into everything…my fruit smoothies in place of honey, in porridge, and salads. I even made a few matrimonial bars (see recipe), which brings me back to another fond memory of dates from another decade, but I won’t get into that now.
What I learned

Of course, there’s always something good that comes out of a bad food purchase right? I’m now really aware that dates are full of sugar and calories. I also know how to store the dried fruit and I’ve discovered many different ways to use them. From now on, I will carefully inspect the food I buy and I’m also suspicious of super low sales. Finally, never shop when you’re tired and hungry to avoid buying food on impulse.

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