Dates (not the blind ones...)

There are over 1,500 different date varieties and I am not talking about all the blind, horrible, stood up, amazing and/or dating app dates I have been on! I am talking about the fruit that grows in clusters on trees in warm climates like California, Arizona, Florida, and the Middle East.

So even though most of my “dates” might be a lot more entertaining to read about than Medjool dates, I will save my dating life for another time and talk to you today about this naturally sweet fruit that when dried looks like shriveled up rocks. Sounds delicious, right?

Unlike rocks, dates do not grow or are found on the ground. All dates are grown on date palm trees and look similar to coconut palm trees. There are male and female palms. The male’s sole purpose is to pollinate the female. Once that process is done, they just sit back and relax for the rest of the year while the females carry the heavy load and produce the fruit. (Sounds about, right? LOL!)

It takes about seven years for a tree to start producing. Once that happens, growers have to go up and down the trees 12-15 times a year to tend to the dates. Farmers call their growing areas “date gardens” or “date groves”, not fields!

After waiting seven long years for this fruit, are Dates even healthy for you?

Yes! Dates are healthy! My first memory of dates is from a cocktail party where they were stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon. They had a rich, almost caramel-like taste and were soft and chewy and, not surprisingly, all gone when I went back to grab another one!

In addition to tasting great, dates contain protein, vitamins, and minerals and contain more polyphenols than most any other fruits and vegetables. Polyphenols are antioxidant compounds that can protect the body from inflammation. They contain natural sugar, which can satisfy one's sweet tooth instead of eating empty-calorie sweets and are high in fiber which helps keep us feeling fuller for longer. They’re also low in fat and packed with nutrients like potassium (50% more potassium by weight than a banana), copper, magnesium, vitamin B6, niacin, calcium, iron, and vitamin K.

I get my dates from Thrive Market but you can find dates in any grocery store with the dried fruits and nuts. If you don’t see dates with the dried fruits, look in the produce area. Grocery stores often put them in displays around the fruit aisles.

So how do we eat dates in a healthy way that they actually taste good (even without cheese and bacon)? TONS of different ways is the answer! They are great for substitutions and you can use them in place of sugar, chocolate chips or candies in baking recipes to ensure you are eating natural sugars instead of refined sugars.