Dates are cute, wrinkly, sweet and yummy little buggers.  An exotic fruit from desert palm trees; they’re a healthy raw choice for sugar and a staple in my kitchen.

Forget about the nasty ones in trail mix, you know the cut-up pieces that resemble sugarcoated turds?  Those are not real dates!  A real date is plump and moist, with a shiny, thin skin, and succulent, sticky flesh.  The flavor is intense and concentrated with incredible sweetness—this baby is pure sugar.  While the skin is edible (some folks don’t like it), the seeds are not, but it’s great fun to spit ‘em out!  I have fond memories of eating dates and expelling their seeds into humid Florida nights with my raw foodie aficionados Alby and Jason.

Dates are high in iron, potassium, fiber and a bunch o’ vitamins.  They’ve got no fat or cholesterol. YES they are 50 to 70% sugar…but it’s a good, natural sugar.  Most dates don’t even have sucrose. If you’re looking for a healthy way to satiate a sugar craving, dig on a date—they make a great snack!

I use MEDJOOL dates on the show but all varieties are delicious–just remember they should be moist when you make your selection.  Store ‘em in your fridge or freeze them and they will last for a VERY long time.  A lot of dates on the market are organic and the difference in price is minimal so go for it.  Lucky for me, living in California, my cheapest source for organic dates is at my farmer’s markets but any good health food store should have a steady supply of good dates but you can also order them online.

Dates are grown on beautiful, tall palm trees known as “the tree of life.” They are one of the oldest crops cultivated by humans!  Their birthplace lies in Iraq—the world’s leading producer in date cultivation.  There are also excellent dates grown in California outside of Palm Springs.  But I never associate date with golf and mid-century design…instead I usually think about the cuisine of the Middle Eastern and North African countries.  I was interested to learn that during Ramadan many Islamic people choose to break their fasts with a date!  When on a long trek, nomadic people lived on concoctions of milk mixed with dates, thus inventing the smoothie.  I can’t think of a better way to show off this killer fruit, so we cranked out one of the ultimate blended treats, THE DATE SHAKE!

Date Shakes are so simple and so delicious; everyone should know how to make them; this really is a MASTER RECIPE for all smoothies.  Once you perfect this one you can flavor a smoothie any way you like:  add berries, add nuts, add fresh fruit, add a tablespoon of cocoa powder, add a handful of raw kale (seriously—it’s killer!), use your imagination and get crazy delicious!

When the tapas craze hit the USA people went bananas for stuffed dates wrapped in bacon.  Undeniably awesome!  Dates are wonderful fun when stuffed with any good cheese (think goat, blue, pecorino) or nuts (like almonds, pecans, walnuts) and they make a great addition to any cheese plate—with or without the pig.  Add dates to your salads, your curries and tagines, your couscous, oatmeal, sweet breads, bread puddings and other desserts.

Wow, so dates are pretty useful after all.  For an exotic treat, a decadent sweetness, a deep and complex flavor addition or just a solid healthy sugar fix, you can never go wrong with the gloriously wrinkly DATE!