Perhaps no Midwesterner knows the potential of a good date better than Colleen Sundlie, owner of The Date Lady in Springfield, Missouri. While living in the United Arab Emirates in 2005, Sundlie started swapping out honey for date syrup, which she personally found to deepen the flavor of foods. After returning to the U.S. in 2008 – her suitcases stuffed with jars of date syrup – she decided to launch The Date Lady in 2012. After countless rounds of R&D, she introduced her date syrup, followed by date sugar, positioning both as naturally sweet alternatives to honey, sugar, molasses and maple syrup. In 2017, Sundlie’s date syrup won the Specialty Food Association's Sofi award in the dessert sauce, topping and syrup category, and she was again a finalist last May (winners will be announced this month). The products are also sold in grocery stores and specialty food shops across the U.S.

If you’re like Sundlie and want to try your hand at making date sugar and syrup at home, both are a snap. Whether you make or buy the sugar or syrup, once in hand, they can both be used in a 1:1 ratio as a sugar substitute. Try date sugar or syrup in your favorite sweet or savory recipes, from cookies and brownies to pizza sauce and salad dressing.

When Rose Hansen isn’t out chasing stories, she lives like a pioneer woman (of sorts) on a cattle farm in McDonald County, where she also practices a love/hate relationship with gardening.

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