I’ve used medjool dates in recipes before but it’s time to take a deeper dive into this weird and wonderful fruit. Dates are the fruit of the date palm, which grows in tropical and subtropical regions. The fruit itself is several inches long and oval shaped, with a long pit in the center.
When looking for dates at a grocery store in North America, most likely the dates you’ll find will be dried and you’ll have your choice between pitted or not. I’ve never seen a fresh one in person, and if you do, I request that you buy it, eat it and then tell me about it! Dried dates are dark brown and have shiny, wrinkly skin on the outside. There are two varieties you may spot: the deglet noor date, which is a bit smaller and darker in color, or the medjool date, which is larger, a little lighter in color and softer. That’s the date we’ll be dealing with today.
New Food Friday: Dried Medjool Dates
What it is: Dried medjool dates come from the date palm, a palm tree that grows mainly in tropical and subtropical areas such as the Middle East. Dates are featured in many dishes from this region, both sweet and savory. They are also cultivated in the United States, in Arizona and the southern parts of California and Florida.
What it tastes like: Sweet and sticky, almost like caramel. Honestly, I couldn’t believe how sweet they are when I first tried one. And unlike some of the other popular dried fruits (cough–craisins–cough), dates have no added sugar and they definitely don’t need it. It’s easy to see why they’re a popular sweetener for trendy things like homemade granola bars and protein bites as well as more traditional cakes, cookies and desserts. (But despite being sugary sweet, they actually have a relatively low glycemic index that may not cause the same spike in blood sugar as other sweeteners.)
Where to find it: There are a number of places you might find medjool dates in the grocery store. If your store has a bulk section, there’s a good chance you can find them there. If not, try any place where you might find raisins or other dried fruit. My Kroger stocks dates with the craisins and blanched almonds near the salad section, while the Meijer nearby groups them with the trail mix and dried snacks.
How to store it: While not strictly necessary, it’s best to keep your medjool dates refrigerated to preserve their soft texture.
What I did with it: Like many people I tend to use dates as a sweetener substitute when making my own protein bites and no-bake brownies. I’ve also blended them into smoothies, made date “caramel” to top my yogurt and chopped them up to mix into oatmeal. Sometime I’d like to try a more savory preparation using dates!
The verdict: Say it with me, dates are great. Seriously, you should try them if you haven’t.