Date Palm Tree Dates
Date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) have been of very high economic, culinary and survival value since prehistoric times. Cultivation has been so long established the point of origin is not known, but probably was around the Persian Gulf.

Today date palms are grown in hot dry regions for the length of North Africa through the Middle East, Iran and Pakistan, and some are grown in Spain and China. California produces nearly all the dates grown in the US (some are also grown in Arizona), but the state's 24,000 tons is minute compared to the millions of tons grown in the Arab world and Persia. Iraq is the largest producer, more than 7 million metric tons.   Photo © i0077.





General & History

In nature date palms are wind pollinated but in production they have been hand pollinated since ancient times. This produces a much heavier yield and makes one male tree sufficient to pollinate 100 fruit bearing female trees.

California follows the Arab naming system for stages of ripeness: Kimri (green unripe), khalal (yellow full-size and crunchy), rutab (ripe, darkened, very soft), tamr (fully ripe and sun-dried).


There are hundreds of date varieties but only a few are in major commercial production, and even fewer are found in markets in the United States.

Abbada - Black Date
Dates Soft, creamy and very sweet, with an almost spice-like flavor. The photo specimens were 1.3 x 0.7 inches and 0.25 ounces. each.

Barhi   -   [Berhi, Kharak Berhi, Barhee, Honeyball]

An almost spherical variety grown in Iran and Iraq, particularly popular there in the soft ripe (rotab) state. Grown in California as Barhi or Barhee, they are the main variety grown here that can be eaten in the khalal (crisp) state (most dates have too much tannin at that stage). They are available khalal in August and September and are shipped by air freight to Middle Eastern communities throughout the US, and by truck to California produce markets.

Here in Los Angeles, Middle Eastern folks cart these off by the sack full when they're available. When buying them look for strands with some of the dates starting to turn to the soft rotab state as these will be the sweetest strands. These dates are also sold in the fully cured tamr state when they are creamy and extremely sweet, thus the "honeyball" name. The photo specimens were about 1.4 x 1.1 inches and weighed up to 0.3 ounces.

Deglet Noor
Dates A very firm, elongated, light colored and medium sweet date with translucent flesh The photo specimens were 1.5 x 0.75 inches and weighed 0.83 ounces. Almost 80% of California production is in this very popular easy to handle date.

Halawy - [Golden Princess]
Dates Originally from Iraq, this is a very sweet medium size date with a creamy texture and golden brown color.   Photo from Dateland Palms Village Date Gardens

Dates on stem A dark red to black date very popular in Egypt but not exported from there. California produces a modest crop that is sold fresh as they are quite tricky to cure.

Dates Originally from Iraq, this is a medium sweet, mahogany colored date with very soft "pudding-like" flesh.   Photo from Dateland Palms Village Date Gardens

Dates A large very sweet medium soft date that fetches a premium price. Originally they were grown only in Morocco and only for royalty, but in 1927 disease threatened to wipe out the trees, so 11 offshoots were sent to California as a hedge against extinction. We're kinda short on royalty around here so our growers will sell them to anyone with cash. The photo specimens were 2.0 x 1.2 inches and weighed 0.96 ounces each, though there are super-premium varieties that are considerably larger.

Mozafati - [Bam Date]
Dates This variety is grown largely in Iran, particularly around the city of Bam in Keman province, thus the moniker "Bam Date". The photo specimens were not marked for point of origin but the plastic package was made in Iran, suggesting our government's ill conceived trade embargoes are as dysfunctional as ever.

Soft and very sweet but not sticky on the outside, this variety is noted for being edible in both soft ripe (rotab) and dried (tamr) forms, and having an unusually long shelf life in either form.

Dates Originally from Algeria, this date has very firm, chewy flesh when cured and a nutty flavor. Photo from Hadley Fruit Orchards

Zahidi - [Zahdi]
Dates Light golden-brown, semi-dry and very sugary. These dates are harvested and cured in three stages, soft, medium hard and hard. They are widely used as a culinary date. Photo from Hadley Fruit Orchards

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