The date is a very particular fruit with unique characteristics. They are usually considered part of the group of dried fruits, such as grapes and prunes or apricot dried apricots, but the truth is that dates ripen and dry on the plant itself. Nutritionally it is a very interesting product, do you know its different varieties?
I admit that it took me a while to appreciate the value of the date. I remember there were always dates at home at Christmas time, and although my parents loved them, I couldn’t bring myself to give them a chance. Luckily, later I discovered its gastronomic value and learned that different varieties they can give a lot of play in the kitchen.
Soft, semi-dry and dry
A generic way to classify the types of dates is in terms of their texture and consistency. Different varieties and their maturation periods offer different characteristics, which also affect the final flavor. We find soft, semi-dry and dry dates.
Broadly speaking, softer or more tender dates are sweeter and contain a greater amount of sugars, although in general all ripe varieties of this fruit have a very high percentage, around 80% of sugars. Therefore, they are a great source of energy being very caloric, although less than other dried fruits.
Deglet Noor, the date of light
This variety of dates is one of the most widely traded in the world. It has a slightly wrinkled smooth and shiny skin, light and slightly translucent tones. It is a tender date but firmer meat than others, semi-dry, not too sweet.
The Deglet Noor is much appreciated for its intermediate characteristics, since it can be eaten natural or used both in the preparation of savory dishes and sweet recipes. Its flavor is balanced, with aromas of walnut and honey. As it does not present a very high humidity, it is also a fruit that keeps very well for a long time without the need for refrigeration.
Medjool, one of the sweetest
The Medjool date is one of the most appreciated for its size and flavor, since its specimens can reach more than 5 cm in length. It is extremely sweet and very moist, tender and juicy. At its optimum moment of maturation, it has a very dark, wrinkled skin that is very soft to the touch, so that even the skin is easily shed.
These dates are the most used for confectionery and the preparation of different sweets. Having such tender and moist meat, it is common to grind them without the bone to obtain a paste that can replace sugar or honey in certain preparations. Its flavor has toasted nuances, with hints of caramel.
This variety of date is somewhat smaller than the previous ones but also juicier. The inner flesh is very soft and very sweet, with a flavor that can be reminiscent of honey as the fruit has matured.
The moisture inside contrasts with the skin that covers it. When the date has matured well, the skin is dark in color and its texture becomes dry and brittle, as if it were thick paper.
Halawy is another small caliber date and offers a much softer and more delicate skin. This fruit, at its optimum ripeness point, has a sweet flavor that is more reminiscent of butter candies than the typical roasted flavors of other dates.
It is not an easy variety to find but it is perhaps one of the most recommended to taste naturally, thanks to its lighter texture. The meat is doughy, creamy, almost melts in your mouth. It is very similar to the Hadrawi variety.
It is one of the most difficult dates to find on the market outside its production regions, since it is usually consumed when it is still fresh, before the natural maturation and drying process that other varieties of dates present. It is collected when it presents a firm skin and a pale yellow color, and it is sold and consumed in a few weeks.
The Barhi date can be eaten fresh thanks to its low tannin content. In this state it is firm in texture and crisp skin, almost like an apple. When left to ripen in the air, it becomes more tender and juicy, but it never reaches the level of sweetness typical of other varieties. Its flavor is reminiscent of spices such as cinnamon or coconut.
It is one of the many varieties that are produced in Iran, exclusive to this land. It is also known as date Bam, in honor of the city of the same name in the region where it is grown.
It is a not very large date, flatter and more rounded, with a very dark and shiny skin color, almost black. It is one of the dates that they are better preserved in the natural for long periods of time, up to two years, without practically losing its qualities.
Zahidi variety is ideal for those who are not looking for a date that is too sweet. This fruit has aromas of dried fruit, with hints of peanuts, slightly reminiscent of dried apricots and apricots. Being less sweet it is also firmer meat.
Its less juicy texture makes it the date perfect for slicing and chopping and add to savory preparations, for example salads or bakery products. It is not very suitable for use as a sweetener as it is difficult to crush due to its drier profile.
These are just some of the most popular date varieties and more exported all over the world, since there are many more different types. It must be a pleasure to walk through the markets of the producing countries and taste different freshly picked dates. Do you like dates? Do you think they are less valued than other similar dried fruits?
Images | Jan Smith, M. Dhifallah, Madhif, stu_spivack Direct to the Paladar | The jínjol or jujube, delicious little fruit that says goodbye to the summer En Directo al Paladar | Beef carpaccio rolls with arugula and dates. Appetizer recipe