As an ambassador for California dates, I’ve been learning so much about what these fruit are, how they taste, and the best ways to incorporate them into recipes. Today I’m going to teach you all about this ancient fruit and show you how easy it can be to add these to your diet!
All About California Dates: What are they? Where did they come from?
For over 50,000 years, Date palms and their fruits have been used by humans. Dates came to California in the early 1890’s. Nowadays there are over 6,500 acres of Date palms that produce over 40 million pounds of California Dates. Can you believe that? The crazy thing is that those 40 million pounds of fruit account for less than 15 percent of the world’s date production.
Benefits of dates & why you should eat them
Dates are a great source of natural minerals like magnesium and copper. These minerals are important for healthy bone development and strength. Dates are also high in fiber and have more antioxidants than other fruits like blackberries, plums and apples.
Because of their low sugar content, Medjool dates (one of the most common varieties) are a great option for those who are trying to keep their sugar intake low. Unlike regular, processed sugars, dates won’t spike your blood sugar levels.
Here are the nutrition facts in case you’re curious: 1 date= 66 calories, 18 grams carbs, 16 grams sugar, 2 grams fiber.
California dates make great snacks on their own, but they can also be transformed into a syrup or paste for a sweetener that’s low on the glycemic index, so it won’t cause the pesky inflammation that regular sugar does.
How to use dates in recipes
Dried California dates are great for use on their own as a nutritious vessel for delicious fillings like soft cheeses or fruit and nuts.
If you’d like to bake with them, it is easy to add chopped dates to breads, cookies, and muffins.
Chop them in a food processor and use them for protein packed balls or bites when combined with nuts and coconut flakes.
Eat dried dates on their own for a quick snack.
Add dates to salads for some sweetness.
Sprinkle chopped dates onto oatmeal instead of using raisins or other dried berries
Dates are great in smoothies (Stay tuned for a smoothie recipe soon!)
Perhaps one of the most common & popular ways to eat dates is wrapped in bacon. Who doesn’t love anything that’s wrapped in bacon?
Storing California Dates:
California dates can be kept in the pantry, but they will dry out faster. For longer storage, it’s best to keep them in the fridge or freezer. They will stay fresh for up to a year, or frozen for as long as 5 years.
I know a lot of people who are new to using California dates want to know how to tell if they’ve gone bad. Here’s a few tips to follow:
- If the dates are discolored (turn darker) or get moldy (Note- I’m not talking about the white film that coats the outside–that’s just crystallized sugar that gets pulled to the outside as dates lose moisture.)
- They smell bad.
- If they have bugs or worms in them. Because organic dates aren’t treated with pesticides, they attract bugs. This doesn’t mean the whole batch is bad. Just toss the bad ones and check the rest.
Dates can also attract fruit flies if they are not stored correctly. To avoid this, keep them in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer.
How to prepare dates for use:
All right, now that you’ve purchased your California dates, how do you prep them so you can enjoy them?
If you’ve purchased dried dates:
(These usually come boxed and chopped.) Measure out the amount you plan to use, place in a bowl. Cover with boiling water so the dates are fully submerged. Let dates soak for 10 minutes or more depending on what your recipe recommends. Strain the fruit and discard the water. The dates will rehydrate and plump up, which makes them perfect for using in recipes.
If you’ve purchased fresh dates:
Fresh dates are a deep, rich brown color.They are also soft, sticky, and super sweet. These may look like their dried counterparts, but they just have a low water content- less than 30 percent. Dates are a naturally dried fruit in many ways. Make sure you feel the dates for the large pits they contain, and remove those before using in any recipes. Trust me, you don’t want to bite down on one of those pits! After removing the pit, simply follow the recipe instructions and enjoy these delicious fruits.
How to use California Dates as a substitute for sugar in recipes:
If you’d like to use dates in your recipe in place of the sugar that is called for, here are a few tips you should know. For instance, if you are substituting date syrup for white sugar, you will use 2/3cup date syrup for every 1 cup of white sugar. You will also need to lessen the other liquids that are called for in the recipe. If you are substituting date syrup for another liquid sweetener such as honey, maple syrup or molasses, the ratio is 1:1. Meaning, you can substitute 1 cup of date syrup for 1 cup of other liquid sweetener.
However, if you are substituting date puree/paste for white sugar, the ratio is 1:1 for sugar. Meaning, 1 cup of white sugar equals 1 cup of date puree/date paste. It should be noted that you may need to add some extra liquids in baked goods if you are substituting date paste or puree for white sugar because it acts as both a sweetener and a thickener.
How to make your own date paste/puree or date syrup:
Date paste consists of 2 parts tightly packed dates to 1 part water. Soak the dates in the hot water. Always make sure you pit the dates after you hydrate them, and then put the dates and water into a high powered blender or food processor. Process the mixture until smooth. Use in your recipes as needed. Store tightly covered in the fridge (up to 1 month) or store longer in the freezer.
To make date syrup use a ratio of 1:1 dates and almost boiling water. You’ll notice there is more water used in date syrup which makes it easier to pour. Blend the mixture in a high powered blender or food processor. Pour in a jar and keep it in the fridge up to 1 month.
Now that you know how to prepare dates, here are a few of my favorite California date recipes:
Click on each recipe to be taken to it-
Let’s Cook with California Dates!
I love to cook with California dates, and I know you will fall in love with them, too. They are great for the health-conscious cook who is trying to eat more fresh, natural ingredients. But that’s just one reason I love dates so much! They are a great way to add sweetness to savory dishes and because they originate from the Mediterranean, they also add an unexpected flavor to dishes. This makes them a fun ingredient to cook with. I’m truly grateful that I have been asked to be an ambassador for California Dates, so that I can share these amazing fruits with all of you. I have a lot of new California Dates recipes coming soon, so be on the lookout for them!
Have you eaten dates before? What is your favorite way to eat them? Let me guess, is it wrapped in bacon?
Be sure to follow me on Instagram at Chef Stuart O’Keeffe (HERE) to see what I’m cooking!