Naturally Dried, Versatile and Long-Lasting
Although you may think of dates as dried fruits, they actually undergo no drying processing whatsoever. While most fruits contain 75 to 95 percent water, fresh dates typically contain less than 30 percent, making them a naturally dried fruit. Storage times vary, depending on what quality you want to maintain for the dates and which stage of harvesting and ripening your dates reached before you bought them.
Dates retain their quality at room temperature for about two months, for one year in the refrigerator and for up to two years in the freezer.
Quality Versus Safety
Because dates are a naturally dried fruit, they remain safe to eat, like raisins, for up to a year in your cupboard or pantry. And like any food, they remain safe to eat indefinitely in the freezer. But manufacturers and date growers recommend shorter storage times so that the dates retain the little moisture they naturally do contain when they are fresh. You can also refresh dates by plumping them up. Just let them sit in lukewarm water for 30 minutes.
How to Store Dates
The more you can keep air from reaching fresh dates, the less they will dry out and the more moist they will remain. If you keep the dates in their original airtight packaging, place a layer of plastic over the top of the dates before replacing the package lid. Otherwise, transfer to dates to a plastic or glass container, leaving little to no room for air at the top of the jar or box. For the freezer, place the dates in a freezer-grade plastic bag and double-wrap the bag in foil to help ensure that little to no air reaches the fruit.
Use dates in the same way you would any dried fruit, chopped or cut with kitchen shears into pieces. Toss handfuls of the dates into baked goods from breads and cookies to pies and cakes, into your morning oatmeal or cold cereal, in all types of salads, in sauces for meat and chicken, stirred into yogurt and blended into smoothies.
Storage for Barhi Dates
Grown in Southern California, North Africa and the Middle East, fresh Barhi dates are nothing like the naturally dried dates most American know. They are picked at the khalal stage of ripening and contain far more moisture than typical supermarket dates. Yellow with brownish dots, Barhi dates are firm, moist and crunchy, with a slightly astringent but sweet taste.
Store fresh Barhi dates at room temperature for a few days or in the refrigerator for a few months. Left at room temperature for longer than two days, the dates reach the rutab stage and turn soft in the same way that persimmons do.