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Archive for Fruits, Nuts & Seeds

TIP OF THE DAY: Customize Your St. Patrick’s Day Bagel

Green bagels are a novelty on St. Patrick’s Day. But here’s a more elegant way to enjoy your bagel, with green fruits and vegetables.

The concept can be applied to any holiday or occasion with theme colors (see the lists below), and can be part of a bagel buffet for brunch. Bonus: It’s a way to add an extra helping of produce to your daily intake.

On top of the cream cheese, arrange fruits and/or vegetables in your color theme, as demonstrated by Arla Foods, maker of the cream cheese spreads used on the bagel (photo #1 and photo #6 at the bottom).

Fruit on bagels beyond a raisin bagel? See photo #5, below—and try it on English muffins, too.

Pick some fruits and/or vegetables from your color list, and get started. The green group has the most options.

(Note: Specialty colors, such as yellow watermelon or purple bell peppers, aren’t typically found at supermarkets. Head to a specialty produce store or a farmers market.)

GREEN FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli (including rabe and rapini)
  • Capers
  • Cucumber
  • Edamame
  • Green apples, figs, grapes, plums
  • Green beans
  • Green bell pepper
  • Green olives
  • Green onion (scallion) tops
  • Green peas
  • Herbs (basil, dill, parsley, etc.)
  • Jalapeño
  • Kiwi
  • Lettuces (everything from arugula to watercress)
  • Pickles/gherkins
  • Sprouts
  • Sugar snap peas, snow peas
  • Zucchini
  •  
    ORANGE FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Chiles (aji amarillo, habanero, Thai yellow chile)
  • Dried apricots
  • Kumquats
  • Mango
  • Orange bell pepper
  • Orange cherry or heirloom tomatoes
  • Orange or mandarin segments
  • Orange watermelon
  • Papaya
  •  
    PURPLE/BLUE FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Berries: blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries
  • Dried blueberries
  • Eggplant (grilled)
  • Purple figs, grapes, plums
  • Purple olives
  • Red cabbage
  • Specialty varieties: purple bell peppers, carrots, cauliflower, corn, potatoes, string beans
  •  
    RED FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Dried cherries or cranberries
  • Jalapeño or other red chile
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Radicchio or red endive
  • Raspberries or strawberries
  • Red apples, grapes, plums
  • Red bell pepper
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Red grapes
  • Red onion
  • Red tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  •  
    YELLOW FRUITS & VEGETABLES

  • Apples (golden delicious and others)
  • Chiles (aji, banana, golden cayenne, lemon, Hungarian yellow wax, pepperoncini, etc.)
  • Corn
  • Pineapple
  • Yellow bell pepper
  • Yellow tomatoes
  • Yellow watermelon
  •  

    Green Bagel Toppings

    Green Bagels

    Green Bagels

    Shamrock Bagels

    Bagel With Fruit Topping

    [1] and [6] The alternative solution from Arla Foods. [2] Conventional green bagels from Einstein Bros Bagels. [3] Fancy (and $6 each!) at the Wynn Las Vegas. [4] The creativity award goes to the shamrock bagels at Sunrise Bagels and Cafe in Wyckoff, New Jersey. [5] Fruit-topped bagel from Number 2 Pencil.

     
    Green Bagel Toppings

    [6] Bagels with a buffet of green fruits and vegetables (photo courtesy Arla Foods).
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Find A CSA & A CSF

    Oops: We missed National CSA Day, which was held this year on February 24th.

    It’s a floating holiday, the last Friday in February, so it’s a different day each year. Our calendar of food holidays, first created in 2005, doesn’t accommodate variable dates, so it served up today’s date.

    Still, CSAs deserve as much attention as they can get, so today’s tip is:

    Head to the CSA DAY website and find a CSA near you.

    You can also check on LocalHarvest.org.

    If you currently browse farmers markets for the best local produce, the next step is to join a CSA and have the farmers market come to you (not literally).

    WHAT’S A CSA

    CSA stands for community supported agriculture, which is a direct-to-customer business model for farmers.

    The concept originated in Europe and Asia in the 1980s as an alternative financing arrangement, to help sustain small-scale farmers.

    It was first adopted in the USA by a some biodynamic farmers in Massachusetts, in the mid 1980s. They coined the term CSA.

    The concept spread, and more and more food enthusiasts became excited to have the freshest produce while supporting local small farmers.

    In a CSA, farmers and consumers bypass commercial supply lines (middlemen, warehouse storage) and deal directly with each other.

    HOW A CSA WORKS

    In a CSA, the consumer buys a share of a farm’s output in the form of a weekly (or biweekly) box filled with freshly harvested produce.

    In the traditional CSA model, participants pay for a season’s worth of produce (called a membership or a subscription), in advance. The CSA member then receives a box of fruits and vegetables every week throughout the harvesting season.

    This model helps stabilize the farm’s income. It’s a boon for small family farms, which get ash in hand to run the farm when they most need it (in advance having something to harvest and sell). The farmer commits to give the best a committed set of customers.

    In return, members receive a weekly box of locally-grown produce. The contents differ each week and members never know what they’ll get, but seasonal harvests root vegetables in the fall, tomatoes and berries in the summer, etc.

    Some people join a CSA for the freshest fruits and vegetables, to support local farmers and to know where their food comes from. Each farmer selects his/her own model, but in general:

  • You can buy a whole-share or a half-share.
  • You can get weekly or biweekly boxes.
  • With some farmers, the members can pick and choose what they wants in the box).
  • Some farmers offer add-on farm products like bread, eggs, honey and flowers.
  • Members can cancel at any time.
  • Some farmers invite members to visit and help work the farm.
  • Some farmers drop off the boxes at central locations in the community; others can deliver to homes and offices.
  • Shares are reasonable, generally about $30, depending on region.
  •  
    CSF: A CSA FOR SEAFOOD

    There are also CSFs—community supported fisheries—that use the CSA model to support their small, local fisheries. Use this locator to find one near you.

    Members support sustainable, transparent supply chains of ethically sourced or captured fish.

     

    CSA Box

    CSA Box

    CSA Box

    CSA Box

    Fresh-Caught Fish

    [1] Farmers pick what’s ready, shortly before delivery (photo courtesy Halas Farm). [2] Boxes get packed and labeled at the farm, then trucked to the delivery spots (photo courtesy Driftless Organics). [3] and [4] You open the box, and decide what to make with the week’s bounty (photos courtesy Urban Tilth and The Chef’s Garden). [5] A similar concept for fish delivers the fresh catch (photo courtesy Inhabitat | Shutterstock).

     

    As with CSAs, you get the most local, most fresh products: “from dock to dish,” as the motto goes.

    Here’s more about CSFs.

    CSAs: HOW YOU BENEFIT

  • You get the freshest food: pulled from the ground or off the tree right before you get. It hasn’t been sitting in cold storage or traveling for weeks by boat.
  • You get organic produce (not all farms are organic), and non-GMO varieties.
  • You become more green by keeping down your total food miles.
  • You make a conscious choice to support the small farmers, which keeps open farmland in your area.
  • You become part of a community with reverence for the land.
     
    The fun aspects include:

  • The surprise of what’s in the box.
  • The impetus to try foods you normally don’t buy.
  •  
    And if there’s something in the box that you absolutely won’t eat, score points by gifting fresh produce to a neighbor, teacher, etc.
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Toss Some Dried Cherries On Everything

    We don’t think that cherry recipes on Presidents Day or Washington’s Birthday (February 22nd) are clichéd. We think they’re a great opportunity to enjoy dried cherries.

    The question isn’t what you can do with dried cherries; but rather, what you can’t. They’re so versatile!

    Some of our favorite uses for dried cherries:

  • Breakfast: On cereal or yogurt, in pancake batter, in omelets.
  • Lunch: In green salads and protein salads (chicken, tuna, etc.).
  • Cocktails: Garnish away!
  • Cheese Board: Accent with dried cherries and other dried fruits.
  • Dinner: Great with duck, fish, pork and veal in sauces, salsas, or a simple garnish; in stuffings.
  • Dessert garnish: For cakes, fruit salads, puddings, ice cream and sorbet.
  • Baked Goods: biscotti, chocolate chip cookies, muffins.
  • Snacks: from the bag, in trail mix, with mixed nuts.
  •  
    RECIPE: GOAT CHEESE SALAD WITH DRIED CHERRIES, CANDIED WALNUTS & CHERRY BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE

    This recipe came to us from Melanie Flinn, MS, RD, for ChooseCherries.com, the consumer website of the Cherry Marketing Institute. There you’ll find recipes for every form of cherries, including fresh, dried, juice.

    You can make the candied walnuts and dressing ahead of time, so that when you’re ready to eat there is little prep involved.

    The dressing is a keeper, by the way. You can add cherry juice to a vinaigrette or creamy dressing for a flavor lilt.

    If you don’t like goat cheese, substitute butterkäse, halloumi or queso blanco for a crusted cheese, or simply add chunks of blue cheese or feta.

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 8 cups mixed greens, mesclun or other (we like a mix ofgreen and red leaf lettuce, arugula and baby spinach)
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/2 cup candied walnuts (directions below)
  • 4 crumb-crusted goat cheese medallions (directions below)
  • Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette to taste (directions below)
  •  
    For The Walnuts

  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • 1/4 heaping cup loose brown sugar
  •  
    For The Goat Cheese Medallions

  • 4 one-ounce slices from goat cheese log
  • 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3-4 teaspoons olive oil
  •  
    For The Cherry Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup cherry juice (for an intense flavor, reduced 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 scant tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the dressing. Place 1/2 cup cherry juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until reduced to 1/4 cup.

    Meanwhile, place the minced garlic in a medium bowl and add reduced cherry juice. Whisk in the vinegar and honey. Slowly whisk in oil drop by drop until well combined. Season with a salt and pepper.

    2. MAKE the candied walnuts. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.

    In a medium nonstick skillet heated to medium heat, add walnuts and sugar and stir constantly until sugar has melted and coated the walnuts, no more than 5 minutes. Turn onto the prepared baking sheet and spread out to prevent clumping. Once dry, store in an airtight container.

    3. MAKE the goat cheese medallions. The best way to slice neat pieces from the log is to freeze it for about 5 minutes before slicing.

       

    goat-cheese-candied-walnuts-choosecherries-230

    cherry-salad-ingredients-choosecherries-230

    Salmon With Cherry Sauce

    Veal Chop With Dried Cherries

    Cereal With Dried Cherries

    [1] Featured recipe: goat cheese salad and [2] cherry vinaigrette for the salad (photos courtesy Choose Cherries). [3] Salmon with cherry sauce. [4] Veal chop with cherry sauce. [5] Cereal with a sprinkle of cherries (photos courtesy Choose Cherries).

     
    Combine the breadcrumbs and panko on a plate; dip the medallions into the eaten egg and then into the breadcrumb mixture. Add olive oil to a nonstick skillet, place the medallions in the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes total, flipping once when the underside is lightly browned.

    4. ASSEMBLE the salad. Combine the greens, dried cranberries and walnuts. Toss with the desired amount of dressing or serve the dressing in a gravy boat or pitcher so people can drizzle their own. Divide the salad onto plates and top each with one warm goat cheese medallion.

     

    Fresh Cherries

    Dried Cherries

    [6] Fresh off the tree (photo courtesy Washington Fruit Commission). [7] Finally: dried to enjoy year-long (photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese).

     

    CHERRY HISTORY

    Closely related to plums and other stone fruits, cherries Prunus cerasus have been eaten since cave men plucked them off trees: Cherry pits have been found in Stone Age caves.

    The cherry is believed to have originated as a natural hybrid between two other Prunus genuses in the Iranian Plateau. The hybrids stabilized and interbred to form a new, distinct species. Extremely popular among Persians, the Greeks were cultivating them by 300 B.C.E.

  • Theophrastus, an early botanist and protégé of Aristotle, mentions them in his “History of Plants” in the 3rd century B.C.E., going so far as to mention that they had already been known to the Greeks for centuries.
  • Roman historian Pliny the Elder later writes that the decadent Roman general Lucullus brought cherries to Italy around 74 B.C. Some myths even tell of the old soldier committing suicide when he realized his supply of the sweet treat had lapsed.
  • George Washington was not the only U.S. leader to have a particular relationship with Prunus cerasus: Another founding father, Thomas Jefferson, grew cherries on his plantation at Monticello.
  • President Zachary Taylor had a less pleasant experience. He was reported to have developed dysentery after enjoying “cold cherries and milk” during a long, hot Independence Day celebration in 1850. Five days later, Taylor was dead, the cause listed as “gastroenteritis—inflammation of the stomach and intestines.”
  •  
    Alas, the health benefits of cherries could not come to his rescue.

    A superfruit with more than 12,000 ORAC units per hundred grams, cherries have a higher antioxidant capacity than grapes, oranges, plums, raspberries and strawberries combined.

    MORE ABOUT CHERRIES

    THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CHERRIES

     
    CHERRY TRIVIA

  • The English word cherry derives from the Latin cerasum, referring to an ancient Greek region near Giresun, Turkey from which cherries were first thought to be exported to Europe. The French word is cerise, the Spanish word is cereza, the Turkish word is kiraz, etc.
  • A cultivated cherry is recorded as having been brought to Rome by Lucius Licinius Lucullus from northeastern Anatolia, in Turkey, in 72 B.C.E.
  • Cherries were introduced into England at Teynham, near Sittingbourne in Kent by order of Henry VIII who had tasted them in Flanders.
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Black Currant Juice & Ways To Use It

    Black currants have twice the antioxidants of blueberries, hitherto the uber-antioxidant fruit. They have four times the vitamin C of oranges and significant amounts of calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium and riboflavin.

    Should you be drinking currant juice? Of course, especially when it tastes so good, whether straight, in spritzers or as a mixer. You can also add a splash to herbal tea.

    The flavor is a bit grape-like, but currant juice is distinctive, bold, pleasantly tart and sophisticated. It’s the kind of juice wine drinkers would choose if they couldn’t drink wine anymore

    Why aren’t we all drinking currant juice? Growing black currants was banned for 100 years in the U.S. (more about that below); but now there is juice aplenty.

    NUTRITION CURRENCY FROM CURRANT C

    Currant C and Knudsen’s both sell black currant juice.

    Currant C’s all-natural product, sold in 16-ounce bottles, is not pasteurized and needs to be refrigerated. The juice is made from concentrate with filtered water, and a bit of pure cane sugar is added to offset the tartness. Each 16-ounce bottle of Currant C contains two servings, at 130 calories each.

    If you prefer a noncaloric sweetener or otherwise don’t want added sweetness, you can buy the concentrate. Knudsen’s 32-ounce bottle is unsweetened and shelf-stable.

    Currant C, a pioneer grower in New York State, sells individual bottles of black currant juice and the concentrate to make your own; plus dried currants, currant vinegar and currant seed oil, gift packages and more. Check out the full line of currant products.

    If you have a black currant bush at hand, it’s easy to make your own juice concentrate.

     
    WHAT ARE CURRANTS?

    Currants are berries that grow on a vine, The genus Ribes includes the edible currants (black currant, red currant, white currant), the gooseberry, and several hybrid varieties.

    The genus comprises some 150 known species of flowering plants that are native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. The black currant genus and species is Ribes nigrum.

    Currants Versus Zante Currants/Raisins

    Since currants only began to be grown recently in the U.S., what are those things we’ve been calling currants?

    They are the so-called Zante Currants, which are actually raisins (dried grapes) that are not related to real currants.

    They diverge at the botanical order: they’re not even cousins.

  • Currants: order Saxifragaceae, family Grossulariaceae, Genus Ribes.
  • Grapes: order Vitales, family Vitaceae, Genus Vitis.
  • Grapes grow on vines and are sweet. Currants grow on bushes and are quite tart.
  • More importantly, raisins have little or none of the black currant antioxidants studied in the research.
  •  
    Zante currants are the dried form of an ancient Greek grape variety properly called the Black Corinth, Vitis vinifera, the smallest of the seedless grapes.

    They come from the third largest Ionian Island called Zakýnthos, which is often called Zante. The variety is named for Corinth, the Greek city where they were grown more than 2,000 years ago.

    The Cause Of The Confusion

    After the commercial cultivation of currants was outlawed in 1911, currants dropped off the culinary radar screen. In the 1920s, Greece began to export small dried seedless grapes, one-fourth the size of the average raisin, from the area of Corinth.

    On the arrival of the first shipment to the U.S., the Greek writing for the word “Corinth” was mistakenly translated at the pier into “currant.”

    Since the growing of real currants had been banned for quite a few years at that point, the name stuck. Generations of Americans have become accustomed to cooking and baking with “currants” (often labeled “Zante currants”) that are really tiny raisins.

    What About Red Currants?

    Red currants are true currants. They are more tart than black currants, so are less desirable for juice.

    But for baking and recipes where sugar is added, the two are interchangeable.

    Fresh red currants are popular garnishes, adding a touch of scarlet to everything from cocktails to desserts.

       

    Fresh Black Currants

    Red Currants

    Currant C Black Currant Juice

    Blackcurrant Jelly Recipe

    Zante Currants

    [1] Fresh-picked black currants (photo courtesy Currant C). [2] Red currants are more tart than black, so less desirable for juice. (photo courtesy Rose Vita | Morguefile). [3] Currant C, delicious black currant juice, needs no added sweetener. It can be bought as bulk concentrate, much more affordable per serving (photo courtesy Currant C). [4] Homemade blackcurrant jelly made from hand-picked wild currants (here’s the recipe from Made by Jayne). [5] Zante currants are not currants (photo courtesy Sun-Maid).

     

    Blackcurrant Jelly Recipe

    Blackcurrant Sorbet

    Blackcurrant Pavlova

    [6] Duck with blackcurrant sauce (here’s the recipe) from Table Of Zekki. [7] Blackcurrant sorbet (photo courtesy Salcombe Dairy). [8] Blackcurrant Pavlova (photo courtesy Kwestia Smaku; the recipe is in Polish).

     

    Forbidden In The U.S. For 100+ Years

    Black currants are extremely popular in Europe and, prior to 1911, were big in the U.S.

    In 1911, the commercial cultivation of currants in the U.S. was outlawed by an act of Congress—for its alleged part in spreading the disease, white pine blister rust, which threatened the U.S. timber industry.

    The ban was based on incomplete scientific knowledge of the disease. At the behest of New York State farmers in this century, scientists from Cornell University revisited the white pine disease issue and concluded that currants didn’t pose the threat to white pines that was once believed.

    Finally, it was shown that white pine blister rust did not jump from white pine to white pine, but from white pine to black currant bush to white pine.

    Until April 2003, black currants were “forbidden fruit” in the U.S. Then, following the Cornell studies, New York State* overturned the black currant farming ban, opening the door for New York Currants™—for eating, juice, jam, yogurt, tea and other applications.

    It’s also a boon for family farms, which now have an in-demand, non-commodity crop to revive sagging revenue. *The ban still stands today in several states.
     
     
    MORE WAYS TO USE CURRANT JUICE

  • Alcohol: Infuse into vodka, make liqueur.
  • Cocktails and cocktails.
  • Currant jam and jelly, available commercially and easy to make at home).
  • Desserts: compotes, crumbles, pies, puddings, saucess, sorbet and a general substitute for blueberries.
  • Dessert sauces.
  • Meat sauces for duck, game, goose, pâté, pork and sausages (red currants are a key ingredient in Cumberland Sauce but you can substitute black currants). For beef, check out this black currant sauce recipe. Coffee lovers: take a look at this coffee and black currant sauce Pork chop with black currant-coffee sauce (here’s the recipe from Splendid Table).
  • Raisin substitute. Substitute dried black currants for raisins or sultanas in any recipe.
  •  
    EDITOR’S NOTE: BLACK CURRANT VS. BLACKCURRANT

    You will find black currant and red currant spelled as blackcurrant and redcurrant. But white currant is always spelled white currant.

    In the interest of consistency, we use the two words.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Know Your Dates

    The first man-made candy was a taffy-like sweet made by cave men, who dried honey into chewy pieces.

    But nature’s first ready-to-eat candy was the date. Figs may have been the first cultivated food (more about that below), but dates, which followed them, became the go-to candy.

    Wild dates are not edible, but early farmers discovered how to make the date palm bear sweet, succulent fruit. Honey, dates, figs and honey-coated nuts satisfied the sweet tooth for millennia.
     
    DATE NUTRITION

    A premium date has the sweetness of honey crossed with sugar syrup. The flesh is soft and easily digestible. Its simple sugars—fructose and dextrose—replenish energy quickly (dates have been called “the world’s first energy snack”).

    Dates are as sweet as any dessert—but the sweetness is natural sugar (largely glucose and fructose), not refined sugar.

    With only 24 calories per date (248 calories per 3.5 ounce/100 gram serving), nutritious dates are as satisfying as empty-calorie candy and baked goods. They are high in dietary fiber and contain more potassium than bananas. They are virtually fat-free, cholesterol-free and sodium-free. And they contain an impressive number of vitamins.

    The science behind dates is also impressive. The fruit is loaded with different antioxidants that help with cholesterol, inflammation, eyesight and various cancers.

    As with any food, quality makes a big difference. There are luscious dates that are “food for the gods,” and sad, dried-out dates that at best should only be used for cooking and baking. If you can’t find good dates locally (we have this problem), you can buy them online. Nuts Online is a good source.

    You don’t need to mourn the sweet fruits of summer when you have a supply of good dates.

    And, as we’re close to Valentine’s Day, you have a good reason to make it a date.

    As with everything, there are different grades of quality. Go for the best. If your grocer doesn’t have the best, buy online.

    TYPES OF DATES

    Different date varieties ripen at different types during the season. The peak season for harvesting dates is mid-autumn through mid-winter (October through January in the U.S.). That means that a good variety is available now.

    Some varieties are chewier than others, some varieties are sweeter than others. But whatever the variety, look for plump, shiny dates and steer clear of those that are too sticky or covered with crystallized sugar.

    Most dates are sold with the pits in. To pit them for cooking, dust the blade of a paring knife with flour to minimize sticking.

    California’s Bard Valley, on California’s southeast border, is our nation’s date-growing capital.

    BARHI DATES: A small to medium size, barhi dates are nature’s caramel. The skin turns from amber to golden brown when the dates are cured. Sensual, velvety and syrupy-soft, a hint of vanilla gives them a caramel-like flavor. Add some mascarpone and you’ll have a dessert with flavor and texture extraordinaire.

    DAYRI DATES: A medium to large size, with a soft (as opposed to chewy) texture. Of all the date varieties, Dayri dates have one of the strongest, most quintessentially “date-like” flavors. They’re generally not as sweet as Medjool, so are an alternative for those who want a less sweet date. When fully ripe, the skin is brown to dark brown.

       

    Barhi Dates

    Dayri Dates

    Khadrawi Dates

    Medjool Dates

    Dates On Tree

    [1] Barhi dates. [2] Dayri dates. [3] Khadrawi dates. [4] Medjool dates (date photos courtesy Good Eggs). [5] Dates grow in clusters at the top of the date palm tree (photo courtesy Dates Are Great).

     

    DEGLET NOOR DATES: Deglet Noor dates are chewy, medium-sweet, and substantial. They have a brown sugar sweetness, with rich, nutty overtones. They’re considered a dry date, giving them a longer shelf life and a more meaty texture great for tossing into salads. The variety is not sticky, so they’re good grab-and-go snacks. Those who generally don’t like dates should try them.

    HALAWI/HALAWY DATES: A small to medium date with bright golden brown skin and tender flesh, these soft dates are appropriately named: Halawy means sweet in Arabic.

    KHADRAWI/KHAWDRY DATES: Khadrawi dates have been called pudding-like. They would fit right in on a plate of chocolates. The medium to large fruits are not overly sweet. The skin is orange-brown to light-brown. These dates do not keep well, so need to be eaten fresh.

    MEDJOOL DATES: Medjool dates have a meaty, chewy texture with a strong, quite sweet flavor. The most common date variety grown commercially in California, a top-quality Medjool is large and pillowy.

    THOORY DATE: This sweet, nutty date is in the dry style. It is known as the “bread date” because it is qwll suited to baking. The medium to large fruit has golden-brown flesh.

    ZAHIDI DATES: Zahidis are a medium-size fruit with smooth, glossy, golden-yellow skin. It has a meaty, semi-dry texture that makes it good for snacking or baking.

     

    Bacon Wrapped Dates

    Fish-Crusted Dates

    Date Pilaf

    Date Cake

    Figs With Honey & Nuts

    [6] Bacon-wrapped dates. [7] Fish with a date crust. [8] Dates in a grain dish (photos 6-8 courtesy Medjool Dates). [9] Date cake (photo courtesy Bestia LA). [10] Dates with honey syrup (photo courtesy Melissas).

     

    HOW TO ENJOY DATES

    Just look for “date recipes” and you’ll find hundreds of ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.

     
    BREAKFAST

    Serve chopped dates with breakfast foods to start the day with more energy. They’re delicious on hot or cold cereal and you can refrain from adding refined sugar. Or serve as a garnish for pancakes or eggs. More ideas:

  • Date nut bread and cream cheese.
  • Date and walnut muffins.
  • Have a few dates with yogurt or cottage cheese.
  •  
    APPETIZERS & WITH COCKTAILS

  • Stuff dates with tangy soft goat cheese.
  • Bacon-wrapped dates.
  • Chop and add to a cheese ball.
  • Great appetizer: Feta Date Walnut Cigars.
  •  
    MEALS

  • Chop them and add to salads (try a green salad with red onion, orange segments; radicchio, arugula, hazelnuts and feta; kale with parmesan and almonds; string bean salad).
  • Braise with chicken and olives.
  • Add whole dates to stews.
  • Stuff a pork roast.
  •  
    SNACKS

  • Grab a handful.
  • Make snack skewers, alternating dates and cheese cubes with grapes or other fruits.
  • Instead of cookies or other sweets, serve dates with coffee or tea.
  • Add to smoothies.
  • Make date nut bars (coconut is a good partner).
  •  
    DESSERT

  • Add dates to rice pudding and other puddings, bread puddings, etc., in addition to or instead of raisins.
  • Garnish ice cream (even better: soak in rum or liqueur first).
  • Toss into a bundt.
  • Serve with cheese.
  • For a seductively good dessert, stuff pitted dates with mascarpone and dip the open ends in chopped pistachios.
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    THE HISTORY OF DATES

    Archaeobotanists found evidence that the dawn of agriculture may have come with the domestication of fig trees in the Near East some 11,400 years ago—around 9400 B.C.E.

    This is roughly 1000 years before the domestication of the dietary staples wheat, barley and legumes. The discovery makes the fruit trees the oldest known domesticated crop (source).

    The date palm tree is believed to have originated in northern Africa. It was cultivated along the banks of the Nile River and throughout the Fertile Crescent, a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of the otherwise arid and semi-arid lands of Western Asia*, the Nile Valley and the Nile Delta.

    Also known as the “cradle of civilization,” this area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers comprised the lands we now know as Iraq, small portions of Iran and Turkey, the Levantine coast of the eastern Mediterranean (Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Syria and the West Bank) and Egypt’s Nile Valley.

    Here’s more on the first domesticated plants and animals.

     
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    *Western Asian comprises Anatolia, the Arabian peninsula, Armenian Highlands, Iran, the Levant, Mesopotamia, the Sinai Peninsula and the South Caucasus.

      

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