I feel like dates have gotten a bad rap – conjuring thoughts of trail mix (not that there’s anything wrong with it…) and other dried fruit and nut products. The image is a super dry, chewy nugget, indiscernible in true taste other than a vague sweetness – not really special or noteworthy. I think this notion of date needs to be cleared up, particularly when it comes to one type, medjool dates…
A few months back I stayed with a friend in Bahrain who has 3 or 4 different types of date palm trees lining her pool and backyard, including medjool (dates are indigenous to the Middle East fyi). Every year, she harvests the dates and goes through the preserving process. For afternoon coffee, we’d sip strong Arabic coffee and have a serious, homemade date tasting! It’s a longstanding tradition there. Each one had a nuanced flavor and a soft, succulent texture….heavenly.
Medjool’s are prized for being the largest and most flavorful of the bunch. They have a tender, melt-in-your-mouth character and are in no way reminiscent of the dried, tough dates in trail mix. The flavor is sweet with overtones of caramel and chocolate. A good date should be like dessert, albeit a bit healthier since it’s high in fiber and minterals (so healthy it’s often used to break fasts).
I have made many a date-doubting friend a believer! I once removed the pit, stuffed them with chestnut cream and topped with bacon crumbles and pomegranate molasses for a party. I didn’t make a ton of them thinking people would be anti-date…I was wrong and got cleaned out! Although they are amazing on their own, they are also lovely in chutneys, broke into pieces as an ice cream topping, in a bbq sauce…the list goes on.