I was astonished – and secretly rather delighted – that the rain that started in Los Angeles at the end of last week continued not just over the weekend, but into this week as well. It’s clear that the city looks cleaner, greener and fresher than it did just a few days ago, released from the months and layers of dirt and dust that have finally been washed away.
But today the sun was shining and the sky was wonderfully blue as I headed off to Santa Monica. It really was a lovely morning at the Farmer’s Market, where it wasn’t long before I was enjoying samples of organic strawberries, fresh local honey and mango (which is apparently enjoying a last late crop due to a heat wave in September). And on Second Street, as I stopped to eavesdrop on a conversation about figs, I was suddenly being presented with the freshest and sweetest dates I have ever tasted.
I’ve never been particularly fond of dates, but then I’ve never been given the opportunity of sampling several different varieties just hours after they’ve been harvested from the palms which are grown practically down the road in Indio. Farmed by the Davall family – whose business was established in 1978 – examples at the market today included the classic medjool (which originates from Morocco), but also honey and empress dates, both of which were originally cultivated on their farm. Each of these varieties are large, and were softer, sweeter and more succulent than I would have imagined. I was also intrigued by the slightly smaller barhi date, or more precisely by the small hand-written sign that declared “We Taste Like Caramel! (Yes, we do)”. And guess what. They did!
The fabulous assistant there gave me 20 minutes of her time and was happy to answer all of my questions, as well as chat amiably about life in L.A. (she’s originally from Germany). I ended-up bringing away a 1lb bag of honey dates ($5), as well as a small basket of figs ($5). Following her suggestion, the first thing I did with my dates is make a smoothie. I’m also tempted to bake a date and walnut loaf, and am keen to experiment with something savoury. So many choices! Do let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions.
Recipe: Date and banana smoothie
5-10 dates (remove the stone as well as any dry or thick skin)
1 cup milk
The number of dates will depend on the type being used as well as personal taste. I used 5 for my smoothie, which gave a convincing flavour and was (surprisingly) sweet without being too syrupy.
Put the dates and milk (plus the ice if using) in a blender and process until smooth (this will probably take a couple of minutes). Add the banana and blend for a few seconds to mix everything together.
As with other fruit smoothies, this takes just minutes to prepare, is really delicious and has a high nutritive value. Excellent!