Harrods food halls in London are a wonderful place to wander and admire all sorts of beautiful food displays, truly the world at your fingertips with absolutely gorgeous everything. On a recent trip to London, myMEGusta saw, for the first time, freshly picked dates sitting in the fruit bin.
Next to them sat a huge array of the more common, slightly dried dates “au naturel”, and then there was a selection of specialty dates, for example, chocolate covered.
(Having just come from a delish brunch, and anticipating a substantial dinner in a few hours, myMEGusta passed on buying any to taste, a mistake, as they would have been a good airplane snack the next day.)
Dates are intensely sweet, and not to everyone’s taste. They show up in American standards, like date bars and date cakes, and, in the Middle East, in main courses, such as in orange/date salad, lamb tagines or chicken with dates.
The palm trees that produce dates also yield a very sweet sap.
This is used in India and Myanmar to make jaggery, a type of dark sugar common in their cuisines, but rarely seen elsewhere. On a trip to Myanmar several years ago, myMEGusta stopped at a date palm farm, with tapped trees and a very potent date jaggery based spirit for sampling (oh, my!) and sale (nope!).
It is believed that date cultivation began eons ago, documented as early as 6,000 BC in what is now Iraq, and most of the world’s dates come from the Middle East. Introduced to the New World by the Spaniards, dates are still cultivated in in the Palm Springs, CA, area.
It is amusing that, according to the PR folks, “(California’s) Coachella Velley is the ‘Date Capital of the World’, as palm groves have thrived here since the 1800’s”, when the United States doesn’t even make it into the Top 10 date producing countries. But, all that said, myMEGusta will definitely make a point to seek out date shakes and date ice cream next time she is in that area of Southern California!