Monday, June 11, 2007

Mazafati dates

I'm not obsessive about eating organic but I like to buy untreated food as often as possible. In Paris only a privileged few (the likes of Catherine Deneuve and the Barefoot Contessa) can afford to shop at the hippie-chic Raspail organic market, but the Cours Saleya in Nice is slightly more democratic: the organic producers don't charge a lot more than the other small farmers. They are also the only ones to sell bean sprouts, red- and yellow-ribbed Swiss chard, spring garlic shoots and multicolored tomatoes, which would be reason enough to shop at their stands. For organic buckwheat flour, big bags of green pumpkin seeds to sprinkle on my salads and virgin sunflower oil I ride my bike to Biocoop, a treasure trove of virtuous and obscure ingredients.
On my way back from the airport yesterday I saw that the annual organic show, Bionazur, was taking place in the Jardin Albert Ier and I didn't waste any time in returning to do the rounds once I had dropped off my stash of Parisian chocolate and cheese at home. This year's show was light on food and heavy on aromatherapy, spelt-stuffed pillows claiming to transmit the right energy for a good night's sleep, vibrating platforms to burn off fat (how can these be organic?) and donkey-milk beauty products, but I did enjoy a small moment of ecstasy as I popped a fresh date into my mouth.
Big, gooey and honey-sweet, it reminded me of a medjoul date, the Israeli variety that is now grown in California. But this was a more unusual date, the mazafati from southern Iran. Slightly smaller than the medjoul, the mazafati grows in an oasis near the historic citadel of Bam at an altitude of 1200 meters, which is unusual for date palms. If high-altitude potatoes can be special, why not dates? I bought two boxes - a steal at €6.50 for 700 g, about 1 1/2 lbs - and was pleased to learn that these fair trade dates will soon be available in organic supermarkets. They keep for about 6 months in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator, though I have a feeling they won't be around for nearly that long in my house. I'll be serving the dates with goat cheese, adding them to Moroccan tagines and nibbling on them between meals.


dorie said...

I love the idea of having the dates with goat cheese. I'll be on the lookout for them in Paris when I get there.

Rosa said...

Hi Dorie, they are definitely worth seeking out! It will be interesting to see how much they charge for them once they're in the shops.

Lucy said...

I must say Rosa that the obscure ingredients, like the ones you find in Biocoop, always make me a happy girl. The lure of the unknown perhaps!

Read somewhere recently (brain like a sieve, so no idea exactly where sorry) that a scientist has managed to cultivate a date palm from biblical times. How cool is that?!

Lovely post. God, I love dates...

Rosa said...

Biocoop is the best, and I didn't even mention petit épeautre de Haute Provence (an ancient relative of spelt) and omega 3-rich camelia oil, which I've only recently discovered thanks to Fuchsia Dunlop's The Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook was traditionally used in Hunan cooking. Plus, they even have a kiddie corner to keep Sam occupied while I shop!

There was really so much more to say about dates - I've been doing a little reading today and there are many little-known varieties.

Would go on, but the mazafatis are calling me from the fridge!