Dates have become one of my favorite treats over the past few years. I eat them with tea, put them in savory tagines, bake them in scones, and add them to just about any recipe that could use the delicious honey-like flavor of a date. The date palm is an amazing tree that grows 100 feet tall over 100 years and then falls over! (There goes my pipe dream of squeezing an orchard of date palms into my greenhouse!) Bats play a major role in pollinating date orchards, but in the United States, a lot of this pollinating has to be done by humans.
Dates have a strong cultural tie throughout the Middle East. You can’t go anywhere in Morocco without being offered a plate of delicious dates, as they are a sign of hospitality. The Berber people have managed to live primarily on dates and milk in order to supplement their diet in place of meat. There is even the belief that dates were created with the leftover ingredients that God used to create Adam. There are supposedly endless uses for the date palm.
As I’ve started to exclude cane sugar from my cooking, I’ve substituted date sugar along with coconut sugar – neither of which spike your blood sugar the way cane sugar does, and I can’t even tell the difference. This is nothing new, as even the ancient Egyptians and Romans didn’t use cane sugar, but instead used dates to sweeten their drinks!