7 Oct 2016

Important Dates!

Spring and Summer yield seasonal produce that truly is hard to resist even if you are moderately interested in fruit and veg. Strawberries will always find a way to your heart, while those greens and tomatoes conjured up together in a salad are so refreshing, they are almost a tabletop necessity when the heat is on and a garden party beckons!

Three's not a crowd!

However Autumn (or Fall as it is commonly known in North America) and Winter may not be met with the same excitement. Yet in those heavy-duty root vegetables, rustic pumpkins, plump cabbages, rosy-cheeked orchard apples, and nuts of every variety and calibre, our bodies find the comfort food, the sustenance and the stodge they need to keep us warm and functional, and not fall into hibernation! And if you are my mum, add persimmons and dates to the list.

I must admit that I never was a fan of the latter two but I never gave up on them, to the extent that they are now a part of my Autumnal fruit bowl too, for added enchantment. This year I have reached a new milestone with those fresh dates, as three different types of them are cohabiting in the fruit bowl right now: Barhi, Medjool and Jujube! Save the date(s), I did it! Those Barhi and Medjools I got yesterday are from Israel. The Jujubes might be from Corsica, I'm not sure.

Sticky, gooey, yummy!

I have to pinch myself sometimes at the sight of these semi-exotic delicacies, yet by the same token remind myself that I live closer to Tunisia - a major date producer and exporter of middle-eastern produce - than to Paris! It is thus only natural that our market stalls and fresh produce aisles shall reflect the geographical proximity, which is a joy!

If you are not too keen on dates, chance is you haven't tried fresh dates. Those are the daddy! They are plump, juicy, sun-kissed, gooey, tasty, nutritious, generous and ready to lend themselves to those killer baklava and other sweet and sticky moist cakes with a middle eastern inclination! Give the shoulder to the thin dates tightly corseted into puny little plastic trays. They are the equivalent of factory-farmed food: unloved, they gave up the ghost way before their time and thus are dry and bland.

Eat as is!

All dates do not come from palm trees. I mentioned the jujubes in a post a while back, in reference to mémé (my grandma), who ate all sorts of unusual fruit while growing up in Corsica: medlars, mulberries, carobs, and the oddly-named  jujubes! The jujubier trees were introduced in Corsica in the 19th century from China, and their fruit (jujube) is also known as Chinese date. This forgotten date is making a come-back locally (in Corsica), no less so than in a mainstream fashion (i.e. down the supermarket aisle, and by the crate-load).

In matters of taste, it's a bizarro bite because not all dates taste of dates! Fresh jujube faintly tastes of apple, with a consistency to match, hence its French nickname of pomme surette (tart apple): an unusual taste for an unusual name! Fresh barhi - my favourite - tastes best when just ripe, in its off-white/ pale yellow robe and slightly giving to the touch as its skin starts to crackle. It tastes divinely of melt-in-the-mouth oven-baked/ caramelised apple, and will lend itself beautifully to the most amazing tarts and pies! The overripe barhi (brown and squidgy) however tastes like fermented apple, almost cider... Medjool doesn't taste of apple: it tastes of a fleshy date - with gusto!

Whichever date it is, enjoy it unadulterated. There are however other ways of 'dating' the date... by dressing it, blitzing it, and/ or baking it! I am well tempted by those three scrumptious recipes:-

Date, Banana & Coconut Smoothie by Tuulia
Mango Tahini Date Cereal Bars by Love Me, Feed Me
Pear, Date and Coconut Cake by Hummingbird High

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