When you stop to sample dates at the farmers market and the man selling them has a protective hand over a small piece of cardboard hiding two baskets of small, round dates which, when you ask him how they taste, he describes as "butterscotch candy," you go home with those dates, obviously. He wouldn't lift up the cardboard to give you a taste before you handed over your cash, but he is right: these dates taste like butterscotch candy.Barhi dates are rare for being tasty in both their yellow, crunchy state (khalal in Arabic) and their soft, brown state. At this rutab stage of ripeness, their skins are thin and crackling, giving way to a smooth, creamy interior that tastes like brown sugar and caramel. Looking for a definition of "nature's candy"? This is it.
The bad news is that Barhi dates have a brief season and are too delicate to be commercially shipped, so the best place to find them is at farmers markets, although there are mailorder sources. The good news is that once you get your hands on a basket, they can be kept in the refrigerator for several months. At the rate I'm eating them, my plan is to buy up the date man's stock this weekend, to ensure a steady supply for at least a couple more weeks.
Anjali is a former private chef who is currently pursuing a graduate degree in nutrition, with plans to become a registered dietitian. She lives in Los Angeles. You can read more of her health-focused writing at Eat Your Greens.
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