Dates are available year round, but because they are harvested in fall and early winter, they’re freshest then. There are three main categories of dates: soft, semisoft, and dry.
Dry dates, or bread dates, are not dates that have been deliberately dehydrated, as is the case with other kinds of dried fruits. Instead, they simply contain relatively little moisture when ripe.
Here are some varieties of dates you may find in the stores or at farmers’ markets.
- Barhi dates: Named for the hot Arabic winds called “Barh,” these dates are medium-sized, thin-skinned fruit with soft, tender flesh and a syrupy flavor.
- Deglet Noor dates: A semisoft date, deglet noor is the variety most often available and accounts for 95 percent of U.S. production. It has firm flesh and a color range from light red to amber.
- Halawy dates: These soft dates are thick-fleshed, caramely, and sweet. Their appearance is wrinkled and the skin ranges from yellow to amber.
- Khadrawy dates: Similar to the Halawys, these soft dates have a caramel-like texture and sweet flavor.
- Medjool dates: These semisoft dates, sometimes called the Cadillac of dates, are sweet, moist, meaty, and firm-textured.
- Thoory dates: This is a dry date with firm skin and chewy flesh.
- Zahidi dates: The Zahidi, a semisoft date, is called “Nobility.” It has a large seed and crunchy fibrous flesh, and is often processed for sliced dates and date sugar products.
The Chinese date, or jujube, is neither a variety of date nor a member of the same botanical family. It does, however, strongly resemble a true date in color and texture, and is used in much the same way. Unlike true dates, fresh Chinese dates are an excellent source of vitamin C: 2 ounces provide 43 percent of the RDA. Dried jujubes have less vitamin C, but, as with other dried fruit, there is a higher concentration of nutrients, including riboflavin, thiamin, iron, and potassium.