Food for Thought: Dates!
Fresh vs. Dry Dates
These other date varieties are usually only available straight from the farm or at a market nearby, but it certainly pays off to give them a try. Typically, the dates available at grocery stores are months to years old, which is easily noted by their dryness and chewy texture. On the contrary, fresh dates are moist, rich, and "melt in your mouth". Fresh dates can have a higher nutrient profile (compared to dry) due to their intact water content and also digest the best.
All dates are nutrient and energy powerhouses. They are great sources of sugar, fiber, magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper, and vitamin B6. Dates are also sodium, fat, and cholesterol free, making them great alternatives for dessert recipes. Energy wise, medjools dates pack the most calories, coming in at 66 calories/date, with the smaller varieties like deglet noor, honey, khadrawy, and zahidi averaging 20-30 calories/date. Contrary to popular belief, dates are a healthy, slimming food due to their immense nutrient profile and zero fat content, making them a great choice for those who wish to lose weight or have diabetes.
It is believed that dates have been cultivated for 50 million years, getting their start in the Middle East. Currently, date palms can be found growing in SW. Asia, N. Africa, Spain, Italy, Mexico, and parts of the United States such as southern California, Arizona, and southern Florida. Date season in the US runs from mid to late August through the end of September.
Selection, Storage, and Consumption
When selecting dates, opt for plump, moist dates and check the container for a packing date. The fresher the dates, the better the taste, texture, and nutrient profile. When fresh dates are not available, dry dates can be pitted and soaked overnight. If you're up for giving fresh-from-the-farm dates a try, check out Bautista Organic Date Ranch: http://7hotdates.com/.
Because dates are lower in water content than most fruits, they can be stored for longer. It's best to store dates in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer to maintain their quality and freshness, but they can also be stored in a dry, cool cabinet as well.
Dates are great eaten as is, used as a sugar replacement, or to recreate a dessert altogether. Before consumption, be sure to remove the pit inside of the date, top stem, and check for black "dirt" (which is actually bug poop). If you happen to bite into a date containing black "dirt", it will taste bitter and gritty, but don't fret because it isn't toxic! Dates are one of the best fruits to take along while traveling, camping, or hiking and can be enjoyed by people of all age groups.
Recipe: Date Fudge Balls
10-20 pitted medjool dates
1/4-1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup of water
Food Processor or Blender (high speed)
Small cup/bowl/container for coconut sugar
Flat plate/platter/container for finished date fudge balls
Process pitted dates in food processor or blender until "date batter" forms (dates will be molded/formed together). If dates are dry, use tiny bit of water when processing to get them to stick. Take a chunk of date batter out with a spoon or *clean* hands and roll into a bite size ball. Dip hands in water to avoid date paste from sticking. Once date ball is formed, place into container of coconut sugar and roll around until all surfaces of the date ball are covered in a fine layer of coconut sugar. Place finished date ball onto a plate/platter/container. Finish rolling date balls until all the date batter is used up.