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Many Varieties Available : Picking the Right Kind of Date

February 09, 1989|DANIEL P. PUZO | Times Staff Writer

Although the vast majority of the dates sold in this country are the Deglet Noor variety, there are more than 100 other kinds being cultivated in the Coachella Valley. Most, however, are not available commercially.

Color, moisture and sugar content are the characteristics that differentiate the dates. For instance, the Barhi is so syrupy that it resembles a piece of candy. And its smooth texture melts in the mouth.

The Zahidi, on the other hand, is a fairly dry, fibrous date. It has an entirely different sugar profile and, thus, is not really sweet at all. Somewhat similar is the Thoory, although this variety contains little moisture and can be considered something akin to a dried date.

The high-priced Medjool is nearly the same size and color of a prune. This date, which contains more fruit than the smaller varieties, is subtle. The flavor is more sophisticated than the others and not cloying at all. And it's easy to see how the Medjool has earned a position as the premium variety.

The Deglet Noor, sold in various shades of bronze, contains the caramel, nut-like flavor that consumers expect from dates.

These varieties and other speciality products, such as the date shake, will be available at Riverside County's National Date Festival in Indio. The event is scheduled from Feb. 17 to Feb. 26. Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for children under 5. Information: (619) 342-8247.

Dates are available at most supermarkets and many specialty stores throughout Southern California. They can also be ordered directly from producers. Some of the major shippers are:

Oasis Date Gardens, P.O. Box 757, 59-111 Highway 111, Thermal, Calif. 92274. (619) 399-5665.

Valerie Jean Date Garden, P.O. Box 786, Thermal, Calif. 92274. In California, call (800) 522-7799. Outside California, call (800) 828-5657.

Shields Date Garden, 80-225 Highway 111, Indio, Calif. 92201. (619) 347-0996.

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