Dates are small, oval fruits that come from date palm trees. The palm trees are native to the Middle East. Yet, they are also cultivated in the rest of Asia, the Mediterranean, Mexico, and the USA.
Dates grow as large clusters hanging from the top of palm trees. Once they ripen, their skin turns brown and wrinkles. At this point, they are ideal for harvesting by hand. If you happen to pick one, it looks like a large shriveled raisin. Despite their appearance, they still contain a significant amount of moisture. Whole dates have a stone in their central part, which you should remove before eating. You can also buy the pitted variants.
Both dried and fresh dates are available throughout the year. The fresh variants are best between November and January. Among the different varieties of dates, the Medjool date is the most popular. It’s deemed a crowd favorite due to its sweet flavor and stickier texture.
If you haven’t tried one yet, the flavor of a date varies on its degree of ripeness. The crunchy, under-ripe dates are called “khalal” in Arabic—they have a sweet, delicate flavor. The ripe, moist dates that have a mild flavor like honey are denominated “rutab”. As for the chewy, dried dates, they are known as “tamar” and often have hints of toffee, caramel, and butterscotch.
Where You Can Find Dates
You can find fresh dates in farmer’s markets during late summer and fall. Today, you can also buy dates online from several reputable retailers. As for dried dates, you can find a selection in your local health food grocery stores and markets, or look for them online as well. The Deglet Noor dates are the most common variant in the US. These are usually semi-dried, then rehydrated with steam and pitted.
Since dried dates have high sugar content, they can also be available as sweeteners. You can find them in the form of date sugar, date paste, and date syrup.
Recommended Dates In The Market
Always remember that dates need warm weather to grow healthy—almost without rain. The Middle East provides the most encouraging weather conditions for the dates. Other areas that cultivate healthy dates include Arizona, Florida, and California.
There are different types of dates in the market but if you cannot find one, again, you can check out some online stores that offer these fruits. When buying online, you should be familiar with the popular types.
Let’s check out some of the most popular types of dates in the US:
Ajwa dates or the “holy date” is a revered variety with links to the centuries-old Islamic faith. They grow only in the Saudi Arabian city of Madinah. These dates boast a mildly-sweet flavor with a raisin-like texture. As for their appearance, they have dark brown to black skin. The supply is often limited which adds up to its exclusivity. They become available in the US via importation.
The Barhi dates are fresh, taking pride in their syrupy flavor. These are the smallest and most fragile type of dates. If you are going to store them, the firm skin and flesh turn amber and golden brown. They are ideal in desserts and likely to maintain their texture and pair great with other fruits.
The Safawi dates have a dark appearance and larger size. These dates are available throughout the year. Their chewiness depends on how wrinkled it is – the more wrinkled, the harder it is to chew.
The Medjool dates are the “king of dates” and one of the world’s most popular varieties. These dates have a deep brown exterior with thick, amber flesh. It boasts a distinctive caramel flavor with a cream-like, lingering aftertaste. It’s best to eat them fresh due to their high moisture content. The Medjool dates originate from Palestine, Morocco, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
The Sukary dates have a light golden shade with a soft, sugar pulp. They’re also called the “royal dates”, to which they stay true. This type is available in both soft and hard varieties. The hard variant often features crystallized sugars. It helps provide a crisp, caramel bite along with its mild sugary flesh.
Kimia dates originate from Iran before, but the palm trees are under cultivation in China. These dates boast black flesh with a juicy flavor. It has a longer life span and can stay fresh for up to 15 days.
Deglet dates are semi-dry with a sweet, delicate flavor. These dates are medium to large in size and their skin ripens from amber to a deep brown. The Deglet dates are a suitable choice for cooking; they ripen late in the season.
If you are planning to try out the different types of dates, you can find them in various markets. In case you want a bigger selection to choose from, you might be lucky to find them online. Now that you know more about the popular types that are worth buying, you can buy one as a delicious treat for yourself, your family, or friends. You can even use it as a defining ingredient for a dessert you want to prepare.