A few weeks ago my partner Sam and I went on a little vacation to Palm Springs. There were of course the anticipated pleasures of sun, time to read for pleasure, and some much-needed relaxation. But the unexpected surprise were the local dates. We discovered new varieties, drank date shakes, and tried dates in unexpected recipes and dishes.
On a particularly overcast Palm Springs day, we decided to head to Joshua Tree where we were met with unusually windy weather, odd-shaped cacti, the otherworldly Joshua trees and some great walking and hiking. On our way back to the hotel, we made a quick detour to Shield's Date Garden where we shared a rumored-to-be-famous date shake and had the opportunity to try a number of dates grown in the valley, some familiar and others I'd never heard of.
Since there were so many dates I hadn't heard of, I thought it'd be helpful to include a brief rundown of three new-to-me dates that we ended up bringing back with us and how we've used them at home so far:
- Blonde Dates: These in particular are one variety to get pretty excited about. They're super soft, extremely tender and not quite as sweet as Medjools. Because of their well-rounded sweetness and soft texture, they're perfect for snacking or for smoothies or shakes. Apparently these medium-sized, creamy dates were created by and are exclusive to Shield's Date Garden; we picked up a package and were hoarding them for awhile but have recently started slicing them to add to salads (much like this kale salad Faith wrote about earlier this year).
- Honey Dates: When Sam and I first sampled these dates, we thought maybe they'd been left out in the sun or just brought back indoors —they were so soft they practically melt in your mouth. This variety originated from the seed of a Deglet Noor date and are grown in the Coachella Valley (where Palm Springs is located). Because they're so much sweeter than the blonde dates, I've been thinking of ways to temper their sweetness a little when serving them. Stuffed with cream cheese or served with a blue or roquefort cheese has done wonders to tone down the sweetness. Alternatively you can cook the pitted dates down with just a little water and give them a spin in the food processor or blender to make homemade date butter.
- Thoory Dates: These dates are completely different from Honeys or Blondes. They're drier and much less tender or soft. They're also not as sweet, are downright chewy, and have more of a nutty flavory. I've been told these dates are wonderful for baking —they're easy to chop given their firmer texture and because they're not as sticky and malleable as other varieties, they're my go-to snacking date.
Do you have a favorite variety of date?
Find Yourself Some Dates: Shield's Date Garden
(Image credits: Megan Gordon)