Fruits from date palms (native trees of Northern Africa and the Middle East), which in addition to being eaten fresh, can be dried and are sold chopped, ready to eat, or rolled in sugar ready to use in baking. Medjool dates from Egypt and California are considered the best. Large and plump with a smooth skin, their flesh is sweet and dense. Fresh Israeli dates are sometimes available, sold on their branch. Pale gold to light brown, the skins can be bitter but the flesh inside is sweet and crisp and will sweeten as it ripens.
How to prepare
Slit the skin of the date to remove the inedible stone. The cavity can be stuffed with marzipan or cream cheese, the flesh can be chopped and added to cakes and puddings (they are the key ingredient in sticky toffee pudding) or added to stews, casseroles and tagines. For a twist on roast lamb, try stuffing it with dates and cinnamon.