Contributed by Cassandra Law, Nutritionist (BHSc) of Green Brick Road Heath

What are dates?
This juicy, naturally sweet, oval shaped fruit is on every foodies ingredient list and abundant in raw treats! Originating from the Middle East and North Africa, dates are grown on palm trees and come in 3 main cultivar groups, which are soft, semi-dry and dry.

The most popular and widely available date that is used in meals and treats in Australia is the Medjool date, which is considered a soft date and sometimes called 'King of the Dates', they are dark golden brown in colour and extremely sweet. Another popular cooking date is Deglet Nour, which are smaller and lighter in colour.

Nutrition of Dates:
Dates are high in dietary fibre, which is important for protecting the colon mucous membrane. Other nutrients that are found in dates are Iron, calcium, vitamin A, manganese and potassium. Dates have a Glycemic index of 30-47 (depending on which variety), which is still considered low, but be careful not to eat too many as they do have a laxative effect!

How to use dates:
1)    When I use dates in any recipe, I always make sure to soak my dates (de-pitted) in boiling water before blitzing in a blender. This makes the dates extra soft and easy on your blender!

2)    When making a raw ‘cheesecake base’ or a slice base, I always use a combo of dates, nuts, coconut oil and a flavour e.g. cacao, cinnamon, vanilla bean, lemon zest etc. Dates are great for holding all these ingredients together and you can mix and match and experiment as much as you like! Dates also make it easy to flatten and mold a base into any pan.

3)    When making a smoothie, instead of honey or maple syrup, try dates! Begin with one soaked date and adjust the sweetness to your liking.

4)    Add chopped fresh dates to a salad. They give an extra burst of flavour and a squishy texture. A great alternative to raisins, dried currents or cranberries.

5)    Use dates as a quick sweet hit snack! Cut your date in half, removing pit and spread a layer of all natural, organic peanut or any nut butter in the middle for an extra fibre and protein.

6)    Make your own healthy caramel by combining soaked dates, coconut oil and a little bit of mesquite powder.Blend until completely combine and use in cakes, slices or as a topping on your favourite dessert.

Storage:

  • Dates are a preservative-free, raw product, high in sugar and moisture.
  • In cooler months sometimes the dates can start to crystallise - and may have a white sugary appearance - but they are fine to eat!

  • In summer higher temperatures can cause the moisture and the sugar in the fruit to react (starting the fermentation process) and if packaged, this may bloat with gas.
  • To get the best from your dates; we highly recommend refrigeration throughout the year.