Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

First dates

Dates 1
Did you know that dates can help alleviate a hangover? They can. And a lot more besides.

I was forced to consider nature’s toffees over the weekend after discovering they are the Marmite of the fruit world. Every day’s a school day, I suppose.

Did you know too that as well as harbouring a wealth of mineral compounds, dates have been shown to help with digestion, night blindness, bone health, allergies, the nervous system and can even help prevent abdominal cancers (or so the internet tells me). Most surprising of all, I note is that dates can even help a body out when it comes to stamina in the boudoir.

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Move over oysters!

As they are also high in natural sugars they are the perfect alternative to processed sugary snacks. With a combination of glucose, fructose and sucrose they can provide an immediate burst of energy in the afternoon if you’re feeling lugubrious in your daily toil. Energy wise they’re reportedly twice as powerful as a banana.

Most importantly though, apart from all their apparent health-giving properties, dates are amazingly flavourful.

With that in mind, I ushered a box of these succulent taste bombs into work last week (what can I say, I live to give) but was subsequently astonished that opinions were split on their worth.

Generally anyone who tasted a date loved it. But just as many people either wouldn’t take one because of how they looked or THOUGHT they didn’t like them – or both.

“Sure they’re only aul people’s food,” one lackwit suggested.

“What are they anyway big raisins?” another eejit chimed.

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“I don’t eat prunes!” another clown guffawed.

These responses resulted in a lot of head shaking from yours truly, especially with the prune remark. If you offer someone a date and they say they don’t eat prunes, there’s something badly wrong.

Something wacky and possibly congenital.

Thus I feel duty bound to dispel some of the current myths surrounding dates.

1). Dates are not prunes.
2).Dates are not raisins.
3).Dates are deadly.

The best news is that dates are currently at their very best. Seasonally speaking, they’re at their best between November to January, so now is the time if you want to introduce some incredible flavour into your life.

Also, I should point out: Not all dates are the same. Deglet noor are the ones you’ll see most often lined up in little white trays and to be fair, you could confuse these dates as jumped-up raisins.

Compared to the sultan of dates, the medjool, deglet noor are poor relations.

The medjool however… these are big, deep-coloured dates with ridiculous amounts of flavour and although they’re a little expensive, they’re ultimately worth it. Harvested by mankind since 6,000 BC they are also affectionately known as the King of Fruit.

Hailing most often from the Middle East or California, the medjool are at their very best when they’re perfectly ripe. Sweet and with a consistency of soft toffee and with hints of caramel and cinnamon, they have to be tasted to be believed. As with anything else, if they’re overly shrivelled and dry looking, they’re best avoided.

If you were minded you could chop up dates for morning cereal inclusion and I’ve even seen them
dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut.

But I like mine best as a sweet treat after dinner, with a coffee and a nugget of strong cheese.

I won’t hear another word against dates.

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