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It's a Date!

Suzanne Abaza Sep 22 , 2016

Dates are pretty ancient. People have been eating dates for more than 4,000 years. You’re probably familiar with them in dried form like this:

da4We sell these gems.Check them out here. 

This week, we brought in our first fresh dates of the season. As an Egyptian who has eaten their body weight in dates, I was very excited. Egypt happens to be the largest producer of dates in the world. Dates are dried, chopped, stuffed and thrown into a wide array of savory and sweet dishes (my favorite being ka’ak -- shortbread cookies stuffed with dates, cinnamon, and nutmeg!). They’re used to make juice, vinegar, honey, and paste. So, basically they’re in everything and they pretty much taste like childhood to me. Dates play a big role in religious celebration in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East. Traditionally, when Muslims break fast in the evening meal of Ramadan, they eat a date first. The streets of Khan-el-Khalili, the largest outdoor market in the world, are packed with date vendors peddling 10+ varieties of dried and fresh dates. So, I was wondering, how did this Middle Eastern staple make it stateside? 

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Date selection at a traditional souk. Most are dried, but can you spot the fresh ones? 

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Shameless plug of my mother’s ka’ak cookies -- shortbread with dates!

The history of domestic dates goes back to 1765 when they were first introduced to Mexico and California by the Spaniards. They didn’t gain popularity until much later. In the 1920’s, eleven Date palms were transferred from Morocco to the United States where they were tended by members of the Chemehuevi tribe in a remote region of Nevada. Nine of these survived and in 1935, cultivars were transferred to the "U.S. Date Garden" in Indio, California. Eventually this stock was reintroduced to Africa and led to the U.S. production of dates in Yuma, Arizona and the Bard Valley in California, and voila -- domestic dates.

Our Barhi dates are from California. Barhi Dates are small round dates that are normally sweet and soft but sometimes chewy like a caramel with caramel candy-like flavor. Fresh dates can be wrinkled, but they shouldn't feel hard. Ideal fresh dates are plump looking and have a slightly glossy look to their skin. Avoid dates that have crystallized sugar on their skin, since that means they are not quite as fresh as you might like. Wait for dates to ripen or they will have a lingering astringent flavor. The easiest way to tell if they are ripe is to look for soft lightly bruised skin and try one.

Our fresh Barhi dates on the vine come in 10 LB and 40 LB cases and are available now. Try them today!

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