Last weekend, we found branches full of fresh Barhi dates at the farmers' market. While we were sampling the crunchy young fruits, the man who grew them urged us to peek around the corner...
Along the sidewalk, just behind the Dates by Davall stand at the Hollywood Farmers' Market
, are several date palm trees, laden with green fruits. Although we'd seen such trees around town before, we admittedly had no idea they were the same as the dates we snack on.
We had also never thought much about the life-cycle of a date and took the opportunity to stop amidst the hustle and bustle of the market and learn more. (This is the sort of personal interaction that fills us with love for farmers' market shopping.) He explained that green dates are edible but very astringent. As they begin to ripen and turn yellow, dates are crunchy, like an apple, with a faint honey flavor. Further ripening can then take place on or off the tree. At the next stage, dates turn brown and chewy and acquire the intense sweetness they are famous for. Finally, they darken even more and become dried dates.
Although the familiar ripe dates are available throughout much of the year in LA, fresh yellow dates are just a late summer-early fall treat. Dates by Davall will carry these khalal stage dates for about five more weeks. (We've also spotted stems at Bautista Family Organic Date Ranch.) We bought a branch and ate half of them right away. The remainder has been hung by the window as we wait for the dates to soften and turn golden, then amber, then deep brown – that is, if we can wait that long!
In Season: Fresh Dates
(Images: Gregory Han and Emily Ho)