Fresh Dates – What to Do with Them

Fresh Dates and Candied Dates
We’re putting the finishing touches — ok, we just can’t blog that with a straight face.

We’re nowhere near “finishing” anything. We’re just getting started on a long overdue post about an epic, epic, epic last supper-style feast for the ages (can you get a sense for how incredible it was?) that went down a month ago, so while you’re waiting during the equally epic putting-together of the whole story, we thought we’d share the little things that probably won’t make the final post — “blouttakes” (blog outtakes?) if you will.

First up…fresh dates! And no, we’re not talking about the three guys we had to kick to the curb when they were so bold as to invite themselves to the dinner. (That story belongs on a different blog.)
Fresh Yellow Dates
We discovered fresh dates when we spied them from the cash register line in a Middle Eastern market, one of three bazillion stops we had to make to shop for ingredients for the dinner. (Incidentally, if you live on the west side of LA, you should pop into the tiny Jordan Market on Westwood Blvd when you have a chance and just browse.) An old gray-haired man was pulling bunches of the pale mustard yellow things out of a large cardboard box and putting them in a basket for display at the end of the counter. I wanted to ask him if he dressed himself in that charcoal gray sweater vest-over-t-shirt or if he just shared the same stylist with BoyzIIMen.

But instead, I asked him what those yellow things were.

“These?! These are dates!!!” He was cough-snarling as he shook a bunch of the dates at me in a way that made me glad I didn’t ask him about his sweater vest.

I didn’t say anything except “oh!” but he must have heard offensive thoughts that I wasn’t even thinking because he shouted a response at me.

“We are Middle Eastern! We eat different kind from you!”

Somehow I ended up taking home two branches of them just to prove that I was okay with his dates.
Fresh Yellow Dates on Branches
Fresh dates are exactly that — they’re the fresher, just-picked version of the dark brown dates with cracked, wrinkled glassine-like skin that we’re used to seeing (and eating). Because of the way those look, forever, I used to think that dates were a dried version of some other fruit, the way a raisin is a dried grape or a prune is a dried plum. No, dates are dates. Their wrinkled brown ripe state is soft and sticky sweet; the fresh version has the hard-crisp texture of an apple or very firm pear and a flavor that varies with the particular fruit from sweet-tart to…nothing. It was the same kind of “nothing” flavor of the yellow, oblong Korean melon called “cha-mae.” If you’re Korean, you know what I mean. If you’re not Korean, lucky you never had to sit around a Mother of Pearl coffee table after dinner quietly suffering styrofoam-for-fruit as “dessert” while your American friends got to eat ice cream sundaes.
Fresh Yellow Date, Pit

According to this article in the New York Times (from five years ago!), fresh dates are in season for only 2-3 months starting in August, so unfortunately, they’re probably not available anymore this year. However, come late summer next year, I’ll go back to that Middle Eastern market with a purpose: to buy fresh dates for this gorgeous recipe from Taste of Beirut for Candied Dates, and to serenade the old man with It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.

Candied Dates with Cardamom

recipe from Taste of Beirut via LostPastRemembered (thanks for the tip, Deana!)

Ingredients

1½ pounds of fresh yellow or red dates
2½ cups of sugar
1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice
Green cardamom seeds, crushed with a knife or mallet (traditionally, cloves are used)
½ cup peeled pistachios or almonds (almonds or candied orange rinds are used traditionally)

Directions

Peel the dates with a peeler; one option is to boil them first and then peel them when they have cooled.

Place the dates in a saucepan and cover with water. Simmer gently until they are soft when pierced with a knife, about 30 minutes or more. Cool a bit.

Remove the dates from the saucepan and with the tip of a knife or a vegetable corer, dislodge the seed from the dates and any strings from the inside of the fruit. Insert an almond inside or some pistachios.

Place the dates back in the pot and add 2½ cups of sugar. Leave overnight or 12 hours or so.

The next day, measure the syrup and add enough water to equal 4 cups. Add the cardamom or cloves and boil the syrup down, adding some lemon juice until it is syrupy. Place the dates back in the syrup and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Cool. Place in sterilized jars. Serve or store in the fridge.

More on Fresh Dates:

by Sarah J. Gim on October 25, 2010 · 6 comments

{ 6 comments }

pam November 3, 2010 at 6:55 pm

So where do you announce the winners of your Mixer giveaway? I can’t seem to find anything anywhere. I just tipped a friend who had a major surgery on to your site…she loves to cook and all the links will keep her occupied for the weeks it will take for her to recover. I’ve gotten so many cool new recipes….thanks.

ur *non*essential hero November 26, 2010 at 4:17 pm

need help ~s-yah~? u don’t need to wait until next year for that recipe, u should have emailed me or DK (we are both very responsive, in 1day u have ur answers).

No need to go to Jordan mkt, you can still 2mo later(don’t go by ‘authoritative’ articles/heros/experts- stick with the guys who actually know); get fresh dates like those pictured on their branches, as of Nov. 24th-probably one more wk. Could have also told you where to get barberry & I’m not even a hot guy/awesome @what(ever) I do >by *your* objectification standards of men “/ You missed the really esoteric, sour/bittersweet, yellow-skin(< 2 racist?) globed, grape-sized, Gim/Gold(en)berries @Jordan in Sept-Oct. How could you not see them, when I did???" http://bit.ly/epeYw4 http://bit.ly/fxBDg0

~g-ah~

btw, your lack of taste/ignorance, self-identity 'issues' in Corean culture; the yellow skin melon you diss frequently, can have good sweetness/mildly delicious flavor if you know what ripeness level to buy them at—put some of your CSBH thin shaved pork, prosciutto, on it<trust me, you'll like it. I don't ever recall eating, and/or liking IC sundae more than once or 2x in my life—guess I'm not very 'typical' bornNraised LA native, 'American' like you, huh? Purely the highest-end, maximal ripeness, morus nigra(Persian), mulberry sorbetto kind of guy…if u were bornNraised in S.Corea like ur parents, u might know the word for sweet/bland morus australis variety mulberry tree that grows there: 뽕나무, 진한 자주색

skrinkle March 10, 2011 at 11:53 am

Not all dates are yellow.
http://farm1.static.flickr.com/113/250437163_bb2d60de3b.jpg
Dates come like the ones described above, known as ‘dry dates’ but also come as ‘soft’ and ‘dried’ the raisin like ones we know more commonly in the west.

Here’s more info’ from a more traditional source.
http://www.palmwonders.com/content/about-dates/

My italian and greek – american friends introduced me to fresh dates years ago,around the time my jewish friends did.
If we think of other’s foods as weird just because we have never personally experienced it, they will be insulted.
It’s just as insulting and wearying from both ends.
I’m an american but I don’t ‘supersize’ all my food, for instance. For years I have worked in a community with a high population of immigrants from a country where, according to the comments I occasionally get, my food preparation habits would be considered unclean because I don’t marinate my meat overnight before serving to remove impurities.

Respecting food markets that sepcialize in overseas products is just common decency.The salespeople are there to answer any and all assinine questions, not other random shoppers.

My jewish friends would get the same reaction from the shopper referenced,as well as from their own families or the shop owners when they’d ask about things they were ignorant about. My elders do it to me too, as though my mere ignorance is insulting…it seems to be an elder’s shame lesson to encourage self-education as opposed encouraging the act of blythly assuming that we can ask anyone any personal habit type question without fear of social infraction.Also, older generations and other cultures almost always end up proving to be more educated than us young americans,unfortunately, and that’s partly why they’re often shagrinned as well.

skrinkle March 10, 2011 at 12:20 pm

I forgot;
dates can be left on their stalk to ripen like bananas.

they are really declicious ( I like the ‘soft’ usually red ones) so I want everyone to try them.

The above recipe looks promising to substitute for real sun-warmed ones off af a tree.
Figs are like that too…dried figs are nowhere near as fruity aromatic juicy and delicately flavored as fresh.
It seems obviously wrong but so many people think dried fruits are the same flavor as fresh?! I admit, I think THAT’s weird.

Tal August 11, 2013 at 3:47 am

The common use of the “Yellow dates” as we call them in hebrew is to eat them raw but after freezing them. After a night in the freezer (or more) you pop them out and after they come to room temperture they become ripe, soft and sweet.
So good!

namz August 13, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Hi
couldnt help but post a comment. I’m middle eastern and actually from a country that was once dubbed the land of a 1,000,000 palm trees. Palm trees are central to the middle eastern life back in teh day.
everything about a palm was used from its leaves that were woven to its fruit (eaten dry or ‘fresh’ or used to make molasses) and pollen (used to make ‘pollen water’ which is very refreshing!) and even after a palm tree dies, u can eat its “heart”..
basically dates go through a cycle… after being pollinated, they grow as little green dates “kalal” and then they ‘ripen’ to the yellow dates you bought “bisr”.. at this stage we usually purchase them at this stage and take them home to ripen.. different people eat them at different levels of ripeness.. some poeple like the yellow ‘unripe’ fruit others like it when its half and half and some (like myself) like it when its totally ripe and orangish brown “ritab”… its very soft flesh that’s like nothing else i can explain.. its almost like a very soft but less fiberous apricot? or maybe a very soft but mushy prune?? depending on the variety, it can be sickly sweet and can have a beautiful nutty finish.. we usually eat it with our yogurt (sort of a mix between yogurt and greek yogurt i guess)
hope this info helps!

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