Dates, that sweet, soft or semi-soft edible fruit of the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) is the secret, subtle ingredient in sticky toffee pudding and the base of many modern-day energy bars. Other not so subtle, in fact sometimes yucky, date experiences can be in Christmas fruit cake or date desserts. Like them or not, I dare you to try our Goat Cheese Stuffed Bacon Wrapped Dates appetizer recipe this Fall as you gather with friends and family. As a not entirely convinced date consumer myself, I found them amazing. (The second best way to use dates, I find, is very thinly sliced in a green salad.)
If you are a date lover and/or want to learn more, venture East from Los Angeles to the Palm Springs area. As you enter the Coachella Valley (where 90% of U.S. grown dates are farmed) the famous, Hadley’s (Cabazon) directly off Highway 10 is a favorite stop and offers a wide selection of dates. The legendary Shields Date Garden (Indio) established in 1924 still exists today and offers dates, date products and farm tours. If you visit, be sure to pop into the theater to view the short film “Romance and Sex Life of the Date”. It provides a quick overview of date farming and is a “blast from the past”.
It can also be viewed on their website: www.shieldsdategarden.com
There are hundreds of date varieties however the Medjool seems to be the Queen of the Valley and the variety recommended for our recipe.
A bit of history
Dates have been part of culinary history for thousands of years and are believed to be the longest cultivated fruit in the world. Brought to California and Mexico originally in 1765 by missionaries the date’s big splash in the U.S. didn’t occur until the early 1900s when its agricultural development was introduced to the Coachella Valley. By the 1950’s date farms, vendors and date shake stands were abundant on Route 66.
This article has been contributed by our founder, Christina Coulourides.