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What's in Season at the Farmers Markets: Barhi Dates

Khalal stage Barhi dates at the Davall Dates stand in Pasadena.
Khalal stage Barhi dates at the Davall Dates stand in Pasadena.
Felicia Friesema

It's been a challenging season, with a long cool summer that decided to make up for lost time at the end, when record heat in L.A. and elsewhere managed to wreak havoc on not a few crops, depriving Silver Lakes Farms CSA members of their delicious micro-greens ("They got fried!!!" says the Facebook status update). But some other departures are inevitable.

Reiger Family Farms has closed up shop for the summer season and won't be back until their winter Satsumas ripen in late November. Tenerelli Orchards are still around with a few late season stone fruits but pretty soon those tables will have more pears than peaches. One of the more luscious early fall crops that has been blissfully unaffected by our schizoid seasonal patterns is the much anticipated Barhi date. They have a season and it's now.

Ripe Barhi dates
Ripe Barhi dates
Felicia Friesema

The Barhi (or Barhee) was brought California in 1913 from Basra, Iraq. It doesn't have the heft and toothiness of the larger, oblong Medjools. Instead, it's a small delicate ovoid when fully ripe, about the size of an overlarge grape, with a rich, buttery, caramel-like flavor. When ripe but not dried, it spreads like softened apple butter. The earlier, yellow stage (or Khalal) Barhi, still on the stems, are available as well. Their flavor is starchy and almost apple-like, with a hint of the creamy and sweet flavors that it will eventually develop.

Take a walnut, wet it with your tongue, sprinkle a little salt, and then press it into a pitted Barhi: a Persian delight enjoyed for generations. Smearing a Barhi onto a salty piece of speck wouldn't be wrong either. Freeze them to both preserve them and enjoy as a cold, caramel indulgence. And sure, you could wrap them in bacon and roast them, but really the best way for first timers is out of hand.


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