A World of Dates

By Andrew Coe

Published on November 11, 2008

There are more than 1,500 varieties of date grown in the world today. These are some of the most popular ones in the U.S. Oasis Date Gardens grows them all, though all aren't always in stock.

BARHI Small and almost round, barhis are known as honey dates because of their extremely sweet, soft flesh. Some date lovers eat them frozen like hard candy.

BLACK LAFLIN Named after Ben Laflin Jr., the son of the founder of Oasis, these are among the largest of black dates. They have an interesting, almost vegetal flavor but such creamy flesh that they are difficult to ship.

DEGLET NOOR The quality of the "date of light", which accounts for about 75 percent of California's date crop (it is most often used in cooking), varies considerably. Supermarket versions are often insipid, but the best deglets have a delicate yet distinctive flavor.

ZAHIDI These oblong, golden-brown dates, whose name means nobility, have little flesh in proportion to the pit, a high sugar content, and little flavor. They're often processed into date crystals and other food products.

MEDJOOL The leading high-end date in the U.S. (and the largest in size) originated in Morocco and has a deep golden-brown to black-brown skin and soft, rich flesh tasting of caramel tinged with molasses.

HALAWY With their caramel- and molasses-like flavor and pronounced sweetness, halawy, or "sweet", dates, which were introduced from Iraq in 1902, are considered by many old-time Coachella growers to have a classic date taste.

KHADRAWY Usually reddish brown and slightly wrinkled, these dates have a good amount of flesh and a mild caramel flavor.

THOORY The "bull's date", introduced from Algeria in 1900, is the driest kind of date and was once a favorite of desert travelers because it keeps well. (It is now a popular snack with hikers and golfers.) Under their brownish-yellow skin, thoorys are hard and chewy, with a sweet, nutty flavor.

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