The Abbada date is rare in California but can be found at small farms and date-related businesses in the Coachella Valley. The color goes from deep red to black as it matures, with a purplish tint. The flesh is soft and almost melts in your mouth, with a very sweet flavor.
Caramel-hued Barhi dates are soft and creamy and taste like butterscotch and … caramel. They are grown throughout the Coachella Valley but are native to Iraq.
Originally from the area of what is now the United Arab Emirates, the Khaisab is black, rich and sweet. It also can be consumed at a younger stage of maturity, when it’s red, crunchy and astringent.
The Ciré date is known to have a unique, granular and almost chewy texture, with a distinct amber and pillowy golden skin. It’s not as sweet as the Barhi or the Medjool and has slight citrus notes.
Like the Medjool, the Dayri is large and luxurious but is less sweet. It’s tender with notes of molasses and earth — and suitable for sweet or savory applications, like cakes or stuffing.
Originating in Algeria, the Deglet Noor is widely grown and available. They are more slender, oblong and mildly sweet than other plump dates, and their texture is a mix of soft skin and chewy, dense flesh. This variety works well when it’s thrown in braises or chopped and added to salads.
The Empress was developed in California from a seedling of the Thoory date by date farming pioneer E.K. Davall. (He planted it on his property near Cathedral City around 1916.) It has a balanced flavor — not too sweet and not too strong; the texture is definitely firm and chewy.
Small, buttery and sweet with papery skin and very soft flesh, the Khadrawy can also taste a bit like fig and coconut. Because it is not cloyingly sweet, it’s great for snacking.
Meaning “sweet” in Arabic, the Halawy has a classic date taste, with brown sugar, raisin and caramel flair. It is soft, tender and slightly chewy at the same time.
Naturally dry and firm when fresh, the Thoory date is originally from Algeria. It has a pasty yellow color, is wrinkled outside and has a chewy texture. They are great for snacking on long road trips and won’t get all squishy if you forget them in your pocket.
Oval, golden and baggy, the Zahidi date is distinctly nutty-sweet. It’s a variety that’s originally from northern Iraq and means “of a small quantity or nobility.”
This is the version of Barhi date that’s harvested earlier than the norm, and it’s one of the few dates eaten at its yellow stage. It is crisp, coconut-like, a bit astringent, tart and like an unripe pear. They are great with meaty, sweet fennel-seeded salami or sliced into thin rings with honey and ricotta on toast.