I thought I did — until I tried one.
I used to talk nutrition as part of my teaching role as a nurse, and the only thing I knew about dates was that they were rich in potassium. Then I went to Israel and they were everywhere.
I had my first date (the fruit, not the other thing) when they served it with St. Peter’s fish during our lunch date (the other thing, not the fruit). I thought it would taste like dried prunes — a little sweet but more tangy and sour — but it wasn’t quite as I expected.
What do they taste like?
I’d been asked this question a couple of times when I got back home. The only thing I can compare it with is another fruit, which is the chico — a brown, tropical fruit that’s sandy and juicy and sweet (no tang). I love chicos.
Dates share a likeness: the meat is brown and soft and sandy. But they aren’t really juicy at all — and the ones we had weren’t even the dried and preserved kind. They leave the sort of taste in your mouth that demands a glass of water.
I only had one. As for water, I had plenty.
And the trees?
Dates are a variety of palm so their trees basically resemble palm trees, only with an additional feature here and there. Date-palm plantations are everywhere in Israel.
You see the trees along the highways and by the roadside; we even had several ones outside our hotel in Tiberias.
Dates are one of the fruits often mentioned in the Bible. According to the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, they bring a symbolic meaning to the text:
The qualities of the date-palm are referred to quite frequently in a figurative sense in the poetical books of the Bible.
Together with another evergreen tree, the cedar, it is used to typify the prosperity of the righteous man (Ps. xcii. 13). Its tall, slender, graceful, mobile stalk symbolizes the beautiful female figure (Cant. vii. 8, 9). In Joel (i. 12) the date-palm is spoken of as languishing.
Languishing? I hope it wasn’t something I said.
… the Negev, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of the date palm trees, as far as Zoar.
Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they camped there beside the waters.
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.