Known as the 'king of the date' the large Medjoul sits majestically at the top of the family tree, due to its paper thin, dark skin and soft, sweet, succulent flesh.
Medjoul dates first originated from Morocco and were called "Madjhoola" meaning 'unknown' in Arabic. They are now grown all over Israel and are seen in abundance in all the street markets throughout the country, where they are sold loose by the kilos.
Medjoul dates are very nutritious containing a wide range of essential dietary vitamins and minerals, particularly potassium. The sugar content of a ripe date is 80%, leaving the other 20% mainly to protein and fibre, yet despite its sweetness, there is only 66 calories in each one, making them a very moreish snack.
Because of the high sugar content, the Medjoul date has always been an ideal product for export. Sold in six continents, the Israeli Medjool variety enjoys 35% global market share. About 50% of the date harvest in Israel is exported, but due to its high quality it is responsible for 75% of growers' income. Israeli dates reach almost every country in the world. The harvest season of the Medjool date, begins in late July and ends in October and although dates can be bought all year round, sales are at their highest just before Rosh Hashana, Tu B'Shvat and Passover.
From an abundance of these large, dark dates, a wonderfully rich syrup is made in Israel, called 'silan' in Ivrit, which is used as a natural sweetener instead of sugars, honey or molasses. This date syrup is often used in sauces and dressings and can be poured over hot pancakes for breakfast and eaten topped with toasted almonds or fresh fruit.
There are also many delicious culinary uses for Medjool dates, in both sweet and savoury dishes, whether served hot or cold. Dates can be paired with lamb or chicken and spiced with Middle Eastern flavours in tagines or added to dried apricots, cranberries and toasted walnuts in rice or couscous accompaniments. Dates work well in healthy salads, breakfast bars, granola and smoothies, as well as with apples and walnuts in cakes and desserts.
recipe for date granola
50g unsalted butter
150ml date syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
125g macadamia nuts
300g jumbo rolled oats
zest of 1 orange
200g Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
labane & fresh seasonal fruit to serve
set the oven to 150C/300F/GM3
place the butter, date syrup, vanilla extract and salt in a saucepan over a low heat & stir until the butter has completely melted
roughly chop the macadamias & place in a large mixing bowl along with the oats and orange zest, then pour the liquid ingredients over the top. Mix until everything has been coated well.
spread out the granola on a large greased baking tray and bake for 30 minutes, taking the tray out every 10 minutes to break up the granola pieces, then stir in the dates, for the final 10 minutes.
leave to cool on the baking tray, then pour the granola into an airtight container where it will keep for up to 2 weeks.
Serve for breakfast with labane, fresh fruit and extra date syrup