Sunday, June 30, 2013

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Dates

     Dates are the fruit of various types of palm trees.  They can be eaten in several ways.  Some people eat them fresh, or dried, and they’re sometimes made into a spreadable paste, a syrup, and can even be made into a wine.  In parts of Spain, the local tradition is to wrap them in bacon, and then lightly fry them.
     They are an ancient food, having been cultivated for at least 4,000 to 5,000 years, and perhaps longer.  Dates are thought to have originated in what is now Iraq, but they’ve long been a staple food throughout the Middle East.  And since then they’ve been successfully cultivated in other warmer climate areas, like Northern Africa, Southern Europe, and parts of North America.
     A date species also holds the record for the oldest mature seed to be germinated.  Excavations in Herod the Great’s Palace ruins in Masada, Israel, recovered some seeds from the Judean date palm, a species that’s been extinct for about 1800 years.  Scientists were able to grow one of these 2,000 year old seeds into a date palm plant, a male they nicknamed “Methuselah.”  So kind of like a “Jurassic Park,” situation, only instead of reborn extinct species that can kill and eat people it was a plant that poses no danger to anyone or anything.  If you’re concerned that Methuselah might be lonely, being the only one of his kind on earth, rest assured that his creators are trying to cross breed him with a related cousin date palm species.  (And to use another movie comparison, hopefully this attempt works out better than for Frankenstein’s Monster and his Bride.)  And if you’re interested, a Russian scientific team has recently (2012) announced a germination that would make Methuselah look like an infant.  They claim that they were able to grow a narrow-leafed campion from immature seeds found in an animal burrow buried under permafrost in Siberia.  These seeds were dated as being about 32,000 years old!  This claim is controversial though, and hasn’t been independently verified at this time.
     I only had dates very recently, within the past six months, but I’ve quickly become a huge fan.  I had them dried, and pitted.  The expression “Nature’s Candy” is bandied about a lot, usually as a way for parents to trick kids into eating healthier snacks.  And let’s face it, usually these claims are lies, or at least wild exaggerations—very few people would say that an apple or raisin is equal in taste to say, a chocolate bar.  Well, dates aren’t tastier than my favorite candies, but as far as fruits go they do come the closest.  Several of my friends don’t like them because they find them too sweet, but to my lazy, immature palate that’s a plus.
     Therefore, I highly recommend dates as a great tasting snack.  But, as a word of warning, take a tip from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and if you’re currently being stalked and harassed by Nazis, let an evil monkey taste test your dates prior to you trying them, to lessen the chances of being poisoned to death.

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