Almost everyone is confused about what constitutes a date. 69% of singles reported they were uncertain whether an outing with someone was a date or not. When you are done reading this, you will be an expert in dates. No, not that date! This date was in King Tut’s grave. The Quran advises the Virgin Mary to eat it when Isa (Jesus) is born. The Israelis sprouted one from a 2,000 year- old seed. Now isn’t that more amazing than most dating experiences?
Oh yes, my date is very interesting. Ever hear of “Frank Sinatra Drive”? Well, my date was instrumental in getting people to the forbidding desert now called Palm Springs! It took camel racing, ostrich racing, and sexy Arabian costumes. A California town changed its name to “Mecca” because of my date. I’m going to tell you all about it but I better first explain the Arabian theme.
In the early 1900’s, the U.S. government embarked on a project to review fruits from around the world with the goal of introducing suitable varieties to America. Walter Swingle, an “agricultural explorer” convinced a Moroccan leader to part with Medjool date tree offshoots. All of the Medjool dates in America can be traced back to a single oasis in Morocco.
But dates were not well-known at that time and few people wanted to go out into the desert so a grand marketing plan focused around Arabia was launched. People were crazy about Arabia at the time and the promoters capitalized on the current Hollywood films Cleopatra, Queen of Sheba and The Sheik, starring Rudolph Valentino.
King Tutankhamun’s tomb fuelled peoples’ interest even more. Along with the priceless treasures found in the tomb, one item caught the public’s attention: preserved dates.
The town of Walters, California changed its name to Mecca. The towns Oasis, Thermal and Indio sprang up in the madness. Investors arriving by train were greeted by sexy, scantily dressed women in Arabian attire and taken to town on camels. Because there were no North Africans or middle Easterners, they had native American Indians dress up like Arabians and lead the camels into town.
In 1921, the Festival of Dates became the crowning achievement of the marketers. Camel and ostrich racing became popular and all the workers in the town of Indio dressed in Arabian attire
ALL “THE WISE MEN” ARE GOING, so here’s all you need to know about dates:
- Pitted dates are called “stoned” dates. The stones go into soap and eyeliner.
- Date nut bread originated in Scotland.
- Date palms have male and female trees. Only females produce fruit so they are planted one male and fifty female trees per acre. The trees are hand-pollinated; Pollen collected from male flowers is mixed with flour and dusted on female flowers.
- Dates ripen in four stages and are defined (unripe to longest on tree) by their Arabic names: Kinri, Khlal, Rutab, and
- If your dates need pitting, dust a knife with flour to keep the dates from sticking.
- Fresh dates wrapped up last refrigerated for 3 weeks.
- The Deglet Noor is my favorite for cooking. It is sweet, delicate, and semi-dry. Dates are for much more than date-nut bread, and holiday treats. I’ve learned to use them in a Tangine or Tanjine, a Moroccan or Algerian savoury stew made with meats, poultry or fish, that are combined with dates and other fruit. Although not every attempt was fantastic, I have tried dates in many ways in my cookery.
- Best for eating fresh is Medjool (Medjul). A deliciously sweet, soft date, these are the dates common around the Christmas.
- Date Palms cover 3% of the earth’s cultivated surface. Stick with my two favorites but also buy Zahidi dates when you find them.They are a sweet, sugary, semi-dry date with a meaty flesh full of syrup.
- When a child is born in Oman, the family plants a date palm.
I stumbled into a Date Palm orchard in Tunisia and was astounded by the beauty of the trees and lush grass. As I sat in wonder, I fell in love with this magnificent fruit. It was a magical oasis that transported me to One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. In my reverie, I realized I knew nothing about dates and set out to advance my knowledge.
I give to you the above exploration with the hope that it expands your life and contributes to wonder. Isn’t that what life is about?