Who’s ready for a date night? Fresh dates are fruits that grow in clusters (similarly to grapes) from the date palm tree in dry and warm climates. In Canada, we’re used to seeing them in their dried format: with their wrinkled brown skin and soft, jammy interiors. And while there are many different varieties of dates, I prefer Medjool, which are larger than the average date and have a rich, caramel-like flavour. They’re also a great staple to keep in your pantry for a quick bite when you have a sweet hankering, and they have a long shelf life as long as you keep them in a tightly sealed container. (Like other dried fruits, they can dry out and become harder if exposed to the air.)
While the sugar content in dates is high, research has shown that dates have a low glycemic impact due to their high fibre content, which means they provides a slow and steady stream of energy (versus a “rush and crash” from refined sugar.)
Dates have surprising versatility in the kitchen. They can be used in baking (one of my favourite desserts–sticky toffee pudding–features dates in a starring role), substitute for sugar, maple syrup or honey in smoothies and beverages, and added to savoury dishes for a touch of sweetness. Here are some of our favourite ways to use this sticky and sweet dried fruit.
Old-fashioned date squares
Delicious date squares are a simple blend of brown sugar, oats, butter and sweet dates — a comforting treat for a cozy winter afternoon. If there's a baked-goods equivalent to a hug, this is it. Get the old-fashioned date squares recipe.