Dates are one of the oldest cultivated fruits - it's thought that they were a staple part of the Babylonian diet 8,000 years ago. Available fresh or dried, they're very sweet and a great alternative to processed sugar.They have a rich, deep flavour and a lush, slightly chewy texture. The mahogany brown Medjool variety is the sweetest, and tastes a little like toffee.
How to Select
Fresh dates should be plump and moist with glossy skins. Dried dates, though a little wrinkly, shouldn't look emaciated, and should still be plump and glossy, with an even color. They are sold whole, packaged in long narrow boxes, or pressed into blocks.
How to Store
Fresh dates will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for around a week. Dried dates stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place will keep for up to a year.
How to Prepare
Dried dates are ready to use straight away - just slice off from the block or pick as many of you need from the box, but you can also soak them in a liquid like tea or various types of alchohol, to boost flavour and moisture. To remove the stone from a fresh date, just push it out with your fingers, or slit open lengthways, remove, and push the flesh closed again. To remove the skin, pull off the stem, then pinch at one end to push the flesh out.