This might not be something to be admitted on Tu B'Shevat (the holiday when the Jewish people celebrate the land of Israel and its produce), but I never l-o-v-e-d dates. They were okay, but that's about it.
However, when you live in Israel, not loving a date, one of the seven species of the Land of Israel is, lehavdil, like living in New York City and not loving hot dogs.
Over the years, I've learned to be fine with dates and other Israeli produce and be proud of them too.
My date-ing life really changed for me on Chanukah. At a charity Chanukah fair, organized by my friend Sophie Amar, held in the local community center, folks sold their wares - home-made hats, scarves, baby items, sweaters, dates. Dates?!
A lovely young woman stood behind a mountain of date boxes. "What are you doing here?" I asked her. She replied, "I am a Jewish date grower from the Jordan Valley and I came her to sell my Jewish dates."
I explained, "I'm not a big date lover, but I am a big lover of Jewish growers, so I'd like a box." (I should have bought two.)
I brought my dates home and put them in the freezer without another thought. A few weeks later, I decided to open the dates and add some to my morning cereal. This would be my new ritual, eating my cereal with dates grown by Jewish growers in the Jordan Valley - "J" Dates. IY"H, this would make my day more meaningful right from the start.
The box (which I can't seem to turn around for a better view - sorry) held dates from the Einot Kedem Organic Farm - the Medjoul variety - the yummiest plumpest kinds of dates. Medjoul dates moist sun-ripened dates, a truly delectable sources of fiber, potassium and other essential nutrients. Win win.
When I opened the box, I was very surprised to find King Kong-sized dates. I quickly grabbed a different box of Medjoul dates from a another company, also tucked away in the freezer. I held them side by side. Big brother, little brother. The organic dates are on the left above. And the taste was so unbelievable that I actually called my children to tell them about it. Really.
Last night I spoke about my dates at the Tu B'Shevat Seder. I said they were about half the size of a small banana, and so pulpy, they sort of reminded me a banana. Everyone looked at me in disbelief, unable to hold back their amusement/confusion about my sudden "J" date enthusiasm.
With the holiday of Tu B'Shevat, my Einot Kedem dates are now finished. I wrote to the farmers, Naama and Omer to ask where I can get more. And if I have to drive to the Jordan Valley, I will. (I already gave my husband notice.)
I'd like to see Einot Kedem anyway. The web says they farm 250 dunams of olives, 100 dunams of dates, and raise 550 sheep. Good for you, Naama and Omer!!! Redeeming the arad Jordan Valley one olive/date/sheep at a time.
Turn on to "J" Dates
I guess I am now hooked on "J" Dates, especially Medjoul Dates from the Jordan Valley. All Jordan Valley Jewish communities grow their dates under the Hadiklaim umbrella organization. Its site says, "Hadiklaim growers combine traditional devotion to this precious fruit with the latest agronomic techniques."
Other Jewish growers participate as well - from the Kinneret to the Dead Sea, Beit She'an to the Arava Desert.
Next time you go shopping, pick up a box of Hadiklaim dates and support the heroic modern day pioneers of the Jordan Valley. And when you drive up to the Golan Heights and see seas of date trees on the side of the road, be proud of this national industry - "J" Dates.