Dates: An Ancient Treat for Modern Times

Oddly wrinkled, with a single pit in the center, dates (Phoenix dactylifera) have been a sweet treat for more than 5,000 years. A modern day favorite, the Medjool date made its way from Mesopotamia. In the 1920’s, it was introduced into the U.S. in Nevada and later relocated to Southern California in 1935. Medjool dates, which come in three sizes (jumbo, large and fancy/small), can be picked and eaten fresh.

The health benefits of dates are plentiful. They contain vitamins A and K, as well as many of the B vitamins. They are a rich source of carbohydrates, mostly from natural sugars (66 g per 100g / 3.5 oz. serving). The minerals copper, selenium, magnesium and manganese contribute to their preventive health benefits. Just one serving provides seven grams of dietary fiber, which supports healthy gut function. Eating dates in moderation can protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, and that’s good for the whole body.

Dates are used in vinegars, chutneys, butters, paste, and as a natural sweetener. Dates satisfy a sweet tooth without adding fat to your diet. When eating raw dates, mix them with raw nuts and seeds or add to a raw cream cheese – spread it on brown rice cakes for a yummy, nutritious snack. They’re the perfect snack to take on a long hike or for one of those days when you’re on the run and might need a quick pick-me-up.

Date Paste: The Ultimate All Natural Sweetener

Date paste can be used in baking, as a spread on your favorite cracker, and in chutneys and other recipes. Put your own spin on this recipe: while processing, add in apricots, raisins, dried mango or other fruit. You can also mix raisins or cranberries into the paste after it’s processed. Experiment and see what sweet bliss you can create!
Ingredients and Supplies 
  • 450 g. standard pitted dates (Medjool dates can be used but are more expensive)
  • 1/2 litre Mason jar (or similar glass jar)
  • Approx. 3/4 c. water
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Splash of Pure Vanilla Extract (optional but recommended)
  • Food processor
Directions
  1. Tightly pack the pitted dates in a Mason type glass jar. You should be able to cram about 450g in a half liter jar.
  2. Pour water over the dates until the jar is really full. Add water if needed to cover dates.
  3. Cover the jar. Soak dates overnight, at least 12 hours.
  4. After soaking, transfer the entire content of the jar, including the water, to the bowl of your food processor.The mixture should look chunky and gooey.
  5. Add vanilla and pinch of salt.
  6. Process dates on high speed for about 5-8 minutes, or until smooth and creamy. The longer you process, the smoother and creamier your paste will be. After 3 to 4 minutes, you will have obtained a paste, but it will still be somewhat grainy. Run the processor for a bit longer.
After the desired consistency has been obtained, transfer your date paste back to your Mason jar. Place it in the fridge. Paste will darken after a few days. Keeps 3-4 months.