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Sep 11, 2006 12:15 AM

Fresh Dates on the Stem - When can we eat them?

A couple weeks ago we purchased some fresh yellow dates on the stem; they were hard. I left them on the counter, yet they are still hard and yellow; they have not turned a translucent brown yet, although they have begun to slightly wrinkle.

Someone advised us to eat them as they are purchased. I tried them, eating the outer skin and all around the pit. They have a bitterness about them, but there is an underlying sweetness that is addictive. I also like the crunch! I keep wanting to eat more, but I am just not sure they are ready.

When can they safely be eaten? If they are a bit bitter, will my stomach talk to me later?

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  1. I've been wondering the same thing, but here's my experience.

    I've eaten one a day every day this week and had no stomach problems even though the first two were very underripe. I don't think bitter is the right word; more like astringent the way an underipe banana is.

    They do get sweeter over time, but not very quickly at all.

    Today I ate one around the white part surrounding the seeds. That is, just the yellowy skin part, no fluffy white part. That seemed to cut down on the unpleasant taste and enhance that addictive sweetness.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Pei

      Pei -- your description is quite accurate! It is a likable astringency, rather than a bitterness.

      How long will it take them to really sweeten? Does the caloric count change as they ripen?

      Are they only available at this time of year? It seems that only now am I seeing them in some of the markets, so they are either in season or just becoming more available to us????

      Thanks for any information.

      1. re: liu

        I've had mine since last Wednesday and the skins are just beginning to turn a dull, darker yellow. They're not even really translucent yet. I'll keep you posted if they get really sweet.

        Sorry, don't have other answers for you but will try to remember to ask!

    2. I bought some atleast 3, maybe even 4 weeks ago. I kept wanting to use them in a salad - like a corn salad or couscous salad with chili-lime dressing - while they were still firm, but never got around to it. So I've just been eating them, 3 or 4 at a time as they soften, with some delicious grana padano. After almost a month, I still have 8-10 that haven't softened all the way. They will get brown (a pale brown) over time and the skin will get papery translucent and easy to peel off. They will slide off the seed even, with the slightest tug. By then all the astringent qualities will be gone though. If yours are already wrinkly, I don't know how appealing that texture would be in a salad.

      3 Replies
      1. re: sweetTooth


        I am patient as you are suggesting, but they are good as they are even in their premature state; if I munch a few a day, I will probably end up with one or two that make it all the way to their ultimate sweetness!

        I will buy more. Are they seasonal? How long is the season?

        1. re: liu


          No idea at all regarding length of the season, if any. Just saw them at my local farmer's market for the first time when I bought them. I can ask the farmer if I see her again. I did ask her if people cook with them and she hadn't heard of it, but saw my point about using in a salad. I am surprised you found the skin to have less of an aftertaste - my experience was the reverse. I'll try another tonight and confirm. Not that it matters, since you like them anyway! :)

          1. re: sweetTooth

            I will toss a few with our salad tonight...thanks for the idea!

      2. liu,
        just by chance, I had a similar experience and did not know what to do with the fresh, yellow dates I bought.
        I stumbled on this web site and was surprised to note that nobody had any real advice for you.
        So I wrote to a date farm in California and asked questions similar to yours. Here is part of the answer I got today:
        The yellow crisp date is a Barhee. They are common amongst Arabs, Chinese and Indians. They are best kept cool and eaten as is. If you set them out on the counter they will ripen and turn brown. Then they will be very soft with a different taste. Not to be confused when they are tree ripened and very sweet.
        For a first time date person I would not recommend the yellow. Look for a soft fresh Medjool. If it has a slightly moist outer-coating it is last years crop which was kept in storage and steamed to make it soft. The flavor will not be as good as a fresh Medjool. I would not recommend those either. Buy fresh. This years Medjool crop is being harvest right now.
        Not to make it any more confusing to you but we grow about 14 different varieties. Each has a different texture, appearance and taste. Some have invert sugar and some cane sugar. Within each single variety of date you can have 6 different taste. All depends on how long they have been on the palm and it's sugar content.

        2 Replies
        1. re: xam

          xam - I so appreciate that you took an interest in my dilemma; every morning I would look at the stem of fresh, yellow dates and drool. I just did not know when to indulge. However, there were several people - of various nationalities - over the huge bin in the market (Super King) showing me that they could be eaten yellow; they would pop them right there on the spot (unpaid for!) while shifting through the dates that they would eventually buy. They were definitely laughing at me -- and with me -- as they gave me a 101 course in elementary for them!

          Every day, while they were yellow, I would sneak one or two (three or four) and although a little bitter, they had an underlying sweetness. Very quickly they were gone and I never really had the chance to let them ripen on the vine. They did begin to wrinkle slightly, and with each day of my very scientific "testing," they did improve in flavor. Next time I will need to buy several branches.

          I really appreciate all the information you found and shared with me; surely, you made me realize that a date is not just a date...there are many variables and varieties. However, I am still not afraid to just ask all those friendly shoppers hovering over the bins -- buying HUGE quantities -- what to do. I never got sick eating them yellow as they had suggested, but I also think that if I had waited -- as you advise -- I would have had a more delicious experience!

          1. re: xam

            How can a date have cane sugar? They must mean sucrose.

          2. A friend who works at a Middle Eastern restaurant gave me a branch (for lack of a better term) of dates. I had to wait a LONG time as they slowly ripened, darkened, shriveled, and became soft and sweet...but they did and they were lovely.

            1 Reply
            1. re: danna

              danna - As you point out, they take a very long time to ripen ad begin to turn a little translucent. But as you can read, I had NO patience. I eventually ate all of them in their yellow stage. The flavor was addicting, although a little bitter. Next time I will buy many more "branches."

            2. I can't believe no one gave the right answer... You're supposed to FREEZE them before you eat them. Once they've been frozen, you can eat them frozen or you can thaw them and use them.

              1 Reply
              1. re: LeahGG

                Experience since my original post six years ago has proven that these yellow stem dates can be enjoyed at all stages.

                If our kitchen is warm, they will ripen quickly to a translucent brown; the sweetness is perfect! If our kitchen is cooler, perhaps from the air conditioner, it will take longer for these yellow fruits to turn brown. Sometimes, in the cooler kitchen they will remain yellow and shrivel to a harder fruit. Still, at any stage these dates can be enjoyed. Yes, the yellow fruits offer a bitterness that a ripened date does not have, yet I find this bitterness to be just another personality of the date. With patience and warmth, a date as we know it can be achieved, however, it doesn't always happen. At every stage, I enjoy these yellow stem dates.

                LeahGG, next time I purchase some of these yellow dates, I will try your method for yet another taste treat.