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Unpollinated Dayri Dates
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Unpollinated Dayri dates are a similar shape and size compared to their seeded counterpart, but they lack a central pit and are a duller pale brown color. As a rule, unpollinated dates do not develop the juicy texture or high sugar content that we are used to in commercially grown dates. They have a thin pulp that has a dry chewy texture. The modestly sweet flavor the of Unpollinated Dayri date is very subtle and earthy.
Unpollinated Dayri dates are available in the fall.
The Dayri date, also spelled Dairi, comes from the date palm tree that is botanically classified as Phoenix dactylifera. They are actually a gigantic species of grass and their drupes are a cross between a grain and a fruit. Male and female flowers occur on separate trees and are generally mechanically pollinated for the production of commercial crops. However, when female flowers go unpollinated, small seedless dates still develop and are occasionally sold by specialty date farmers. Unpollinated Dayri dates can be found growing alongside pollinated Dayri dates on the same stalk and bundle.
Dayri dates are an excellent source of dietary fiber as well as potassium, protein, iron, folic acid and B-vitamins.
The mild flavor and firm texture of an Unpollinated Dayri date makes it uniquely outfitted for some unconventional culinary applications. Though they lack the usual sweetness level and buttery texture, their flesh stands up well to pickling in a brine spiked with ginger, coriander, star anise and peppercorns. Pair the date pickles with a cheese plate or rich braised meat such as pork shoulder. They may also be diced and added to bread dough or stuffing for poultry to add a chewy bite. Complimentary flavors include nuts, chocolate, coffee, cream, maple syrup, cinnamon, coconut, orange, bananas, apricots, brandy, rum, cheese and bacon, pork and poultry.
The Unpollinated Dayri date is considered a secondary crop, and gives farmers as well as chefs the creative opportunity to make something out of what would otherwise be discarded.
First brought to California in 1913 by Paul Popenoe, The Dayri date palm was originally from Basra, Iraq. In their native Middle eastern habitat, a small wasp is responsible for pollinating date flowers, but attempts to import and use these wasps in California have not been successful. Most commercial date groves have one male for every 40 to 50 female trees, but in nature about half of all palms are male.