Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fresh Date Scone

I recently had my first fresh date from a Far Mar in San Fran. Yellow, starchy and only barely sweet, it was not unlike a plantain in tostone form. But after a few days, the sugars took over, the yellow darkened to a grayish brown, and a sweet syrup collected in the bottom of the plastic grocery bag I was using as a carry-on. (In date speak, that's khalal to rutab.)

Back in Boston, we popped them out of their thin skins, popped out the pit, chopped them up, and tossed them into a basic scone recipe. If you think they were soft, sweet, fresh and delicious, then you're right.

Previously, my best experience with nature's candy - aka the world's finest fruit - was when I got to keep a handful of medjools dropped by an apathetic Whole Foods employee. As I've said in previous posts, it makes sense that juicy cacti spring from arid climates, but I have a hard time understanding how these little brown sugar bombs hail from palm trees. A desert food and a dessert one, it may be the only food that makes sense whether you use one 's' or two.

Dates might be the oldest cultivated tree crop, and have been found in the tombs of Pharaohs, thought to sustain the leaders from their death until the time Anubus, the jackal headed god, weighed their heart. The many functions of dates are staggering: using the syrup to seal pipes, the seeds for flour, the fruitless branch as a broom. But as far as I'm concerned, their high water mark in human history happened in my kitchen, padded with butter.

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