I never used to be a huge date fan… my husband always loved them, but I never really saw the appeal. But when I started eating Paleo about 8 months ago, I realized that dates are a great sweetener alternative for baked goods, shakes and smoothies and started to routinely buy them just to snack on. They satisfied my sweet craving and I really enjoyed the texture. It’s funny how your tastes and interests in food change once you become healthier and move past traditional sugar cravings. Simple sweetness, like that obtained from a date, take on a whole new meaning and level of satiety.
I’ve been cooking with dates too. I’ve made some delicious desserts and appetizers, which I will certainly post about later! What inspired THIS post was a little event that occurred a couple of weeks ago…
I had a container of dates I bought from Trader Joe’s. I saw that the container said “refrigerate after opening”, but it’s winter here and the container (plastic with holes in it, like a strawberry container) seemed fine sitting on the counter. I grabbed one of the last dates left, took a bite, ate it and then proceeded to break the date in half using my fingers to pull the pit out.
What did I find? (DISCLAIMER: I didn’t have my camera, so I don’t have a photo of this… but I DO have witnesses!)
I found LITTLE BLACK BUGS!
Well, at first I didn’t know they were bugs. I didn’t have my glasses on, so I said to my husband… “What are those??? They aren’t BUGS are they???” To which his response was hysterical laughter. I ran to the sink, spit out what was left in my mouth, rinsed with water and shot dirty looks at both my husband and 9-yo — who were rolling on the floor laughing. I looked at the few that were left in the box and YES… they had bugs too!
Note: I did a quick internet search on this while writing this post and found out that these little black bugs (in dates) aren’t that uncommon! How many have I eaten in the past??? How many have YOU?
I decided it was because I hadn’t refrigerated the dates and because they were right on the line of expiring (according the expiration date on the package). However, not willing to to take any more chances… with my next container of dates I decided to cut them in half BEFORE eating them. What do I find with the VERY FIRST date I cut in half? THIS:
What I can only assume is some kind of mold or decay??? So then I started cutting more dates in half and kept seeing this brown “dust” in a few of the dates:
I thought I was just being overly dramatic and “looking for things” and while I didn’t eat them, I figured they were probably fine to eat and I was just being silly. Then I found this:
Yes, that’s a WORM. And yes… it is accompanied by the brown dust. I cut more open and found more brown dust, but no other worms. I wasn’t convinced…
So with my next package, I cut open more. Out of 18 dates, I found 3 with the dust. In the photos below, the first first date had just the dust. The second had the dust, but also had a very clear HOLE that I assumed was a worm hole… and my assumption proved correct when I cut open the third date and found more dust AND another worm.
The moral of the story? Dates are clearly susceptible to worms, bugs and decay… a fact I never knew. I had eaten LOTS of dates before discovering this and can only imagine the amount of disgusting crap I have eaten. A few web forums also mentioned that the whitish “web-like” substance you find in dates isn’t normal either… but I found that in MOST of the dates.
Has this completely turned me off dates? Shockingly, no. I just made a date appetizer for a party this past weekend. In fact, that’s how I found these 3/18 bad dates. That said, I will NEVER bite a date again with out first cutting it open! I highly suggest you do the same!!!