Try Dates for Date Night!
Dates are sweet. Dates go great with dinner. Dates are new and exciting. Dates are fun. The fun thing is … we aren’t talking about a romantic evening between two but are discussing a small fruit that grows on trees! Dates are a popular item among the food industry – especially in the sweets department. Not only are dates high in nutrient value but they also hold a significant value to many religions. Date palms are mentioned in Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions. Where, exactly, the date palm originated is not confirmed because it is believed to be a hybrid of two plants from tropical Africa and India.
Dates are grown on the underside of palm trees. They grow in big clusters underneath the palm leaves and must be picked from the tree when grown. As you can imagine, the harvesting of dates is intense labour, some of these trees can grow up to 75 feet high and one must climb up to get them! A unique aspect to date palms is there is a male tree and a female tree. The male trees hold the pollen and the female trees produce flowers. No insects or birds are attracted by this pollen or flower, so the trees must be hand-pollinated.
Dates can be eaten fresh or dried, depending on what you plan to use them for! They are great to eat alone as a snack or a topping on yogurt, ice cream or salads. There are around 10 types of dates, so it can be overwhelming when trying to buy the best ones at the grocery store. The Medjool dates are bigger and softer than most dates so many people tend to enjoy them the most. When choosing dates, pick ones that are intact, with slightly translucent skin and separate – not ones that are mashed together. Once you bring your dates home there are many ways to use them. But first, it’s important to de-pit them. Slicing the date lengthwise should allow for the pit to pop out, you can either cut them fully in half or leave them with a slight hole in the side.
Dates contain many health-promoting nutrients and provide an energy boost! The three main benefits of dates are the carbohydrates, potassium and magnesium sources in them. A cup of chopped dates contains about 110g of carbohydrates. Since carbohydrates are our bodies essential source of energy, dates are a great snack item that won’t lead to guilty feelings afterwards. Potassium is important for body growth, building muscle and helps control our acid-base balance. Magnesium assists with protein development, blood glucose control and nerve function. Dates are also an excellent source of fibre which helps smooth out our digestive functioning.
Recently, dates have become a popular substitute for sugar in baking. Dates are naturally high in sugar, giving off a sweet caramel-like flavour that is a great addition to many sweet treats. Date sugar is a popular one to one ratio substitute made from dehydrated dates and can be purchased at many health food stores and even online. Raw dates can be blended into homemade energy bars as their sticky characteristics are beneficial in keeping those treats together, moist and chewy!
This date night, we challenge you to make a yummy dessert with dates. They are sure to deliver a great natural sweetness that your date will absolutely fall for!
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Chef Lisa Ruscica
Chief Food Ambassador