Medjool dates are soft and chewy, naturally sweet with a rich caramel-like taste. These strange-looking, versatile little fruits from the date palm tree are a powerhouse of nutrients and flavor.
Here are thirteen surprising facts about the Medjool date. You just might decide that you can’t live without them in your plant-based kitchen!
What is That Funny Looking Fruit?
While wandering in your produce department you might have noticed a small, brown, shriveled-looking, fruit packaged in a little plastic container and wondered what the heck these giant raisin-like things were! Well, you aren’t alone.
The first time I saw Medjool dates, I honestly thought they were some sort of dried-out version of a plum or a prune – kinda like a raisin is the dried-out version of a grape. My adventurous self put the package in my cart though.
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Honestly, my palate wasn’t very sophisticated back then; and so the unopened package sat in the back of my cupboard for about a year until the ants invaded, the cupboard had to be cleaned out, and the package was tossed along with the ants.
Things changed when I started eating whole food plant-based. The Medjool date is now a staple in my vegan pantry. I pull these tasty little gems out to use at least once a week now. Read on to learn some things you probably didn’t know about Medjool dates, how to cook with them, and get some tasty recipe ideas.
So Just What is a Medjool Date?
- It’s no surprise that dates are the fruit that grows on date palm trees. You might be surprised to learn though that the dried up pruney looking Medjool dates you buy at the grocery store are not dried fruit at all but are fresh. That’s right! They only look like giant dried raisins. In fact, they are harvested, cleaned and packaged looking exactly the way they did growing on the palm tree. Other dates may or may not be processed or dried. But you can be sure that a Medjool date is unprocessed and fresh.
- When you touch a fresh Medjool date for the first time, you might expect it to be hard when you press into it. It was surprising to me that it was soft and even a little squishy. In fact, if your date is hard to the touch, then chances are it is getting old. As long as your dates aren’t rock hard though and moldy (eww), you should be able to soften them by letting them sit in hot water for about an hour.
- Medjool dates are a powerhouse of nutrition, naturally high in fiber, vitamin B-6, iron, and potassium. (Medical News Today)
Just How Long Does a Medjool Date Stay Fresh?
- How long would you say most fresh fruits last on your counter-top? A few days? A week at most? Surprise! If stored in an airtight container, Medjool dates will stay fresh up to three months.
- Better news! If you refrigerate your dates, you can keep them for about six months. Freeze them and you’ll get up to a year.
- How will you know if your dates have passed their prime and are ready to be thrown out? Well, you might find the unpleasant surprise of mold on the surface of your fruit and the date will be quite hard to the touch -almost rock hard.
- But wait! Here is a happy surprise fact: that white stuff on the outside of your dates might not be mold at all. Before throwing them out, check to see if the “mold” on your dates isn’t just a white film of crystallized sugar that Medjool dates sometimes develop. Hold it close to your nose and give it a good whiff. You should smell a light toffee or caramel scent. If they smell a little off, or like mildew or rot, toss them out!
But watch out! Your dates may well develop a nasty black mold and these dates should be thrown out.
You will know you have a problem when you first pry the date open and notice a little black cloud coming out of the date. When you open it, it will be solid black and even the pit will be black.
You can see the difference here in the two opened dates. The date on the left is perfectly fine. The date on the right, however, is black with mold. Throw it out!
The good news is that out of the hundreds of Medjool dates I’ve opened, I’ve only seen black mold one time.
Why Do Vegans and Whole Food Plant-Based Cooks Use Medjool Dates?
- Medjool dates are often used as a processed sugar replacement in whole-food plant-based recipes. Have you ever wondered why? Medjool dates are a whole food and a natural unprocessed sweetener. The most processing they go through is when you personally put the soaked dates in a high-speed blender (affiliate links) or food processor and whir around until they turn into a smooth date paste.
- You will find Medjool dates in some vegan recipes as well. Surprise! Not all sugar is vegan, and unless the sugar is organic or the source is certified vegan, you don’t always know. The Ordinary Vegan has a great article explaining why. Many vegans don’t cook with regular sugar because it is processed with bone char.
- Once you know about Medjool dates, you won’t be surprised to learn that they can be used in so many ways: in smoothies, sauces, puddings, and baked goods. In fact, anywhere you need a little sweetener, you can use these powerhouse fruits! I’ve even used them to cut the acidity in some of my tomato dishes like my Homemade Pasta Sauce Recipe.
How to Use Medjool Dates in Your Everyday Cooking
- Remove the pits and soak your dates in hot water. If the dates are fresh and soft, then a quick 20-30 minute soak should do. Soak dates that are old and hardened a little longer. You might need to soak for a few hours. You will know your dates are ready to use in a recipe when they are quite soft and just starting to fall apart.
- Make sure you drain and throw out the water they were soaking in. Your recipe will probably call for some type of liquid with which you will blend and process the soaked dates. If the recipe calls for water, use fresh water.
- Make a date paste. Put the soaked and drained dates along with the liquid called for in the recipe in a high-speed blender or food processor and process until smooth. You will probably still see some little dark flecks in your date paste. That is normal.
Ready to give Medjool Dates a Try?
You are going to find these tasty versatile little fruits to be a staple in your pantry. These recipes are a great place to get started. They all use Medjool dates. Some just might surprise you
Dressings and Toppings – Sweet and Savory:
Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Caramel Sauce
Or how about chocolate ice cream? That’s right!