Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Gnat Hats and Okra

A neighbor brought us okra, freshly cut --five pounds of it.

We'll eat it fried and eat it boiled. Tasty!

We were standing outside fighting gnats who swarmed out faces. His grandson went to the truck and got out a gnat hat: a straw hat with little lengths of Mardi Gras beads. They gave us a couple of necklaces and I cut pieces to attach to our straw hats. Hey! It works. 

 It doesn't take long to get used to little beads swishing around your heads, much less annoying than gnats in your eyes and ears and nose. We look festive with our red or green beads.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Fresh Dates

Those dark dried fruits with the papery skins that Mama used to buy for fruitcake were the only dates I ever ate. They are sugary sweet and I considered them a treat.

 Our friend Kenneth brought me a bucket of fresh dates from his Mama's date palm.
I didn't know dates grew locally; never did anybody point out dates growing when
I used to travel 10 counties in SW Georgia.

These are not the long and slender medjool dates that we bought at the store. These are round and oh, so fragrant.

I spent time looking for directions on ripening and preserving these fruits and how to best use them.

It seems there are 4 stages of a ripe date:

 Khalal: full size fresh fruits, but still green and not edible
    Bisr: colors start changing and sugars start developing
    Rutab: softening and darkening
    Tamr: ready for packing

These are past Khalal, I think. They have tints of red and yellow and are not astringent when bitten into. They aren't as sweet as I imagined so I guess they have not yet reached Rutab. Kenneth and Rose eat them, and 2 of their 3 grandsons. He told me I would need to ripen these further.

The various ways of ripening include freezing, which I am going to try; air drying which is in progress and dehydrating. With temperatures outside in the high 90s I opted not to try having the oven on at 180-190º F for an extended period.

Right now they are spread on an enamel broiler pan lid with nylon net above and below to keep out insects and perched on a cardboard box in the Mule Barn where they'll be hot enough to dry. I will pick out a few to freeze and a few to refrigerate.

One of the sources that I read described an acid pretreatment. They used lemon juice. Lacking lemon juice, I used vinegar and water. They needed washing anyway. There was no explanation of why pretreatment is necessary, but I figure it is to prevent mold.  It isn't to prevent color changes, because dates naturally turn brown as they dry.

This morning as I read, I noted one source suggested that dates be chilled before eating fresh. There is a definite difference between the taste of mango at room temperature and cold mango flesh, so I decided I might like my dates chilled as well. Chilling mango removes the turpentine like aftertaste. It will be interesting to see if chilling enhances dates. 

Among the recipes I may try are date bread pudding and oatmeal bars with date filling.

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