Updated: Jun 10, 2020
My association to dates in Dubai is Ramadan. When we first moved to Dubai toward the end of summer, Ramadan had just ended but I being new to Dubai, I had not yet connected Ramadan and dates. Each year Ramadan moves earlier by a number of days and each year, I observed how the timing of Ramadan would correspond with the maturing of dates on trees. What a beautiful experience, if you have never seen dates ripen on trees.
We live in an area with many Emirati homes. Outside these homes usually, on the sidewalks, you will find many date palms. From spring to summer, dates start to appear. First hard and green. Then yellow and crunchy like an apple. As they ripen, they turn deep in color (a mango red), followed by gold, until they take on the beautiful deep bronze color we know of dates. In the process of ripening, the air smells sweet-sour like the smell of fermentation.
Some of the branches get so heavy with the fruit, that they buckle under the weight. To protect the dates from falling onto the ground and being ruined, nets are put around the fruits to catch them as they fall. The fruit stay on the trees the entire time until ripe.
They can be picked at various stages and at each stage you will experience a different texture and taste too.
So what does this have to do with Ramadan? Dates are used to break the fast. Special juices are also made from dates, and they are prolific over Ramadan. I always felt that the timing of the bearing of dates was especially for Ramadan - as if nature is saying, 'yes, we are ready for you'.
Dates are wonderfully energizing, an excellent sweetener and extremely versatile to cook with. I can honestly say, it's one of my favorite fruits and that's why you will see them in so many of my recipes. That, and because I live in Dubai, and I like to make use of local produce wherever I can.