Buying dates in bulk for a good price

If you have a Pakistani grocer in your neighborhood, chances are you can get really good deals on large boxes of dates. During Ramadan (which is right now), we traditionally break our fast with dates, so now’s the time to stock up. It used to be all Medjool, but Tunisian (Deglet) dates are gaining popularity.

We were gifted three large boxes from relatives, two Medjool and one Deglet. I know these were cheaper than whatever’s at Sam’s Club, BJ’s, or Costco because our three gifters are die hard fans of those establishments and wouldn’t have purchased them elsewhere otherwise. Here’s a visual comparison:

Left to right: The first two are different Medjools. The third is Deglet. The last two are varieties brought back by a relative from a religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. We had other varieties, too, but finished them already. Some of these other varieties have textures and flavors that are acquired tastes.

Pictures of some boxes:




Current family joke: “Our dates are Class 1, haha!” It’s funny when you haven’t eaten all day.

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Gorgeous!! I love a bit of salted almond butter on one for a snack… Which are your favorites?

I’m curious! I’ve only had soft and sweet dates, how would you describe the other varieties?

The Saudi dates in the picture above are Ajwa (I think) and Barhi. Both are less soft and medium sweet, with Ajwa a prune-like chewy and Barhi a cookie-like crispy/chewy. Ajwa has prune-like notes to me, so that could be why I associated it with prune texture. Maybe sticky is a better description. When Barhi is at it’s best, it taste like caramel. The Khalasa is a favorite of many Arabs I know. It’s a medium sweet date with a soft texture (blanking on describing the sweetness notes at the moment.) Zahidi has low sweetness and a dry texture similar dry to Barhi; in my experience it’s preferred by those who find Barhi too toffee-like. Those are all the ones I know the names of.

When I want to taste all the notes in coffee or chocolate, I consume it first thing in the morning. My palate is never as keen later. I feel this is what makes dates so perfect to break a fast. You can really taste all the notes.

Most of the time these dates will be artificially hard because people won’t stop storing them in the refrigerator! (Yes, huge pet peeve of mine.)

Although dates are grown in Pakistan, they’re not as important a part of the culture as with Arab countries. I now say Deglet, not Deglet Noor, because I was once yelled at. I don’t remember what country this person was from (not Tunisia obviously), but it was about something like labeling a tomato grown in Spain as “San Marzano”. There’s also various grading systems.

Many varieties are now grown in California. As dates continue to grow in popularity, I expect to see more of these available across the US. Could dates possibly be the next big fruit trend, following in the footsteps of mango and avocado? One can only dream.

With Medjools, we will often pit the dates, trying to keep it intact as possible, and fill with nut/filling combos. Almond (sliver) and unsweetened whip cream is a crowd favorite: chewy, crunchy, and creamy. My personal preference is almond and unsweetened shredded coconut. Pistachio is good, too.

My favorite dates are the two Saudi dates shown in the picture above, with a slight edge to Barhi.

Sadly for us food lovers, as Saudi Arabia grants more and more visas, the varieties with less general appeal are harder to find. I haven’t seen many varieties in over a decade. I’m sure those must still be available somewhere for locals. I used to see a lot more dates that were golden/brown in color.

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Wow!!
What a wealth of information you are!
I am not nearly as familiar with the different varieties but this is bookmarked so i know what to look for- when i see fresh big medjool i always get those as a treat, they certainly aren’t cheap.

I grew up in CA and there are some very delicious dates grown there, i have only been to Palm Springs a few times but I distinctly remember their hyper local specialty which is a date shake! I have recreated myself many times since, although with almond milk and nondairy ice cream.

I discovered this recipe for sauteed dates a few months back, but i used dates that weren’t fancy or special. Really wonderful over some plain greek yogurt for a quick simple meal-three ingredients including salt!

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Thank you! This recipe is great. I didn’t expect the olive oil to tame and complement the dates so well. Another example of what grows together, goes together. I’ve eaten this on crackers, yogurt, ice cream, rice pudding, and all types of breads. I even mixed it with tahini (and maybe lemon juice) once to make a dip. Jury is still out if the “date hummus” was good or we were just really hungry.

The result is very rich, though. 4 to 5 Medjool dates for one person is far too much. 1 to 2 is more than enough. Also, depending on what I’m pairing it with, I like to “char” the dates just a little on one side. This isn’t mentioned in the recipe, but the dates soak up quite a bit of olive oil as they sit and cool in the pan.

I used some as a pizza topping the other day and was promptly given a sauteed date moratorium.

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How do you determine the ‘freshness’ of dried dates? Once we were driving along the highway around the Anti-Atlas oases of Morocco. There were plenty of local kids selling boxes of dates. We were a bit interested, but wondered how long those dates have been carried around every day under the desert sun and heat. So we didn’t buy.

Personally, just by how dry the texture is and by flavor. If the dates are really old, you can sometimes see the sugar starting to crystallize. Some date varieties dry faster than others. The box of Deglets we received a few weeks ago dried much faster than the Medjools.

I would probably have done the same as you and passed. To be honest, you can find excellent dates from California these days – similar to Californian olives.

On a side note, I recently read a notice on a package of dates to “refrigerate after opening”. After inquiring, I was informed it wasn’t necessary but would “extend shelf life”. I feel like refrigerating dries out dates faster.

Glad to hear you’re a fan! I’ve really just had them over some plain greek yogurt or as is on bread/crackers- as a pizza topping sounds good though!

Iv’e been getting into dates lately myself. I wouldn’t mind trying some exotic varieties, just want to make sure they are fresh. Personally I can eat a lot of them. I put them on cereal and don’t need any sugar. They are packed with vitaimins, minerals and phytonutrients. Sweet goodness!

I have heard that Farmer’s Markets in California have quite the variety. I haven’t looked online yet to find a source because I have a steady supply these days.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold