Residents spin creative dishes from home-grown dates
One residential community in Dubai is reaping the benefits of a labour of love.
Residents of The Sustainable City on Al Qudra Road are celebrating the “date season” — and how: They’ve just harvested a massive 50 tonnes of home-grown fruit.
Five varieties of dates have been collected this year: Khalal, Khudri, Lulu, Khinzi and Barhi. This has meant many treats for the 500 families living in the development.
What’s more, it’s not just the residents that are enjoying the fruit but also their friends and extended family, who have been invited to partake in the produce.
Some of this, of course, will be displayed in various supermarkets for sale. But that is only because so much has been harvested this year.
“Every year, we have a bumper harvest. This year has been no different,” said Hadeel Ahmad, Communications Director at The Sustainable City.
“The date harvest season is usually from mid-June until mid-August. Inside the Sustainable City there are 1,250 date palm trees. We have dedicated workers in the community to take care of our trees and harvest the dates,” she said.
Hadeel added: “Every day, freshly plucked dates are dropped off at the community centre in the City. We are happy to give it to anyone else who wishes to collect the dates from us. We have also stocked some in the fridge next to the mosque in the City. It is in our food bank – free for everyone to pick and eat. As part of our sustainable goals, we do vertical farming and have been growing strawberries as well.”
Planting trees and the harvest
“For starters, at the City and as a first step, we helped in the pollination process. Date palms are either male or female. So we cut male flowers and manually pollinated them with the female. We did this in the first week of February. We waited until the second week of June to pick the dates and this is expected to go on till the end of August,” said Hadeel.
“We do not use any pesticides. The dates are all organic. As for plucking dates, it requires a special skill and we leave it to the experts to do the job,” she said.
Hadeel added that while most of the dates are meant for consumption within the community, some are sold at select stores in Dubai.
“At the Sustainable City, we have a very productive landscape and do not plant things just for the sake of beauty,” she said.
“It is great to see that the developer of the community is trying to create a micro-climate and so they have planted more than 10,000 trees of various fruits and vegetables in the development.”
Nada Bsaiso, a Jordanian resident, said she and her family have been thoroughly excited with the produce this year. “We are fortunate that our house faces a row of date palms. My children enjoyed collecting the dates from just across the house. This whole experience has taken me back to my roots, it is amazing,” she told Gulf News.
Bsaiso has been putting the dates she has been collecting to good use. She has been preparing dishes every day which use dates as a key ingredient.
“There are so many dates lying around in the house, I thought, I might as well put it to some good use and make a dish out of them.”
Bsaiso, who holds a Master’s degree in agriculture, said she has prepared a number of dishes with the fruit, but one standout is a date smoothie. The recipe, she explains came out quite well.
Bsaiso said: “Most importantly the family enjoyed it.”
She and other expats shared some of their favourite recipes.
Bsaiso’s recipe for a date smoothie
• Almond milk, 1 cup
• Medium-sized banana, half
• Medium-sized dates, 6
• Almond butter, 1 tbsp
• Cinnamon powder, 1/2 tsp
• Golden flaxseeds, 1 tsp
Put all the ingredients together in the blender.
Blitz well and serve.
British expat Alex Morris’ makes energy balls
It was great fun working as a family preparing the dish, it was a real community effort.
• Dates, 400g
• Roasted peanuts, 100g
• Oats, 100g
• Peanut butter, 2 tbsp
• Coconut oil, 2tbsp
• Sweetened chocolate chips, a handful
Blend peanuts and oats into a chunky batter.
Add dates, peanut butter and coconut oil to the mix.
Add some chocolate chips to the mix.
Roll the mixture into little balls. Serve immediately.
Kelly Kourie makes date balls
It was a fun experience. The family loves to put together themes as we have so many dates lying around in the community.
Kelly decided to prepare date balls with her collections.
• Walnuts and cashews, mixed, 2 cups
• Coconut shredded, 1 cup
• Dates, 2 cups
• Vanilla essence, 1 tsp (optional)
In a blender blend the nuts and coconut. Keep aside.
In another bowl, blend the dates.
In a mixing bowl, add the date puree, nut-coconut mixture and vanilla essence. You can use your hands at this stage to meld into homogenous batter.
Take chunks of this batter and roll into balls.
Roll these in some shredded coconut.
Pop them into the fridge to harden a bit.
Take out and serve cold.
“It was a fun experience. The family loves to put together themes as we have so many dates lying around in the community.”
Australian Nicole Walker makes date ice cream
• Coconut cream, 1 can
• Pitted dates, 6-8 chopped
• Banana, 1
• Honey, 2tbsp
• Almond Milk, 1/2 cup
• Dark chocolate, grated (optional)
Mix all the ingredients together.
Pour into the ice cream molds
Freeze this for 4-5 hours. Serve chilled
Tiffany Huxley made date sponge cake
Basically I stuffed the dates with goat cheese, honey and walnuts. I love the concept we have in the community. This is one of the reasons we have been living here for a while. We are a family of five and almost every day we have been enjoying a dish made out of home-grown produce in the community. My children love it too. It is important they (children of today) have the pleasure of experiencing something like this.