Dates are the berry fruits of the date palm of the palm family (Palmae, Arecaceae), which may reach up to 25 m in height. The date palm is one of the oldest cultivated plants and is probably native to the area around the Persian Gulf.
The date palm is dioecious, and only a few male palms are kept; the female trees are pollinated by hanging pollen-impregnated cotton cloths over the female inflorescences, which then develop up to 200 dates per fruit spike.
The single-seeded oval berry fruit, approximately the size of a plum, is golden yellow to brownish red in color and has soft flesh and an inedible stone.
The water content of dates is reduced to 20% by natural or artificial drying. The latter process is preceded by immersion in boiling sodium hydroxide solution.
Sometimes the stones, which constitute 15% of the fruit, are left in, resulting in dates with an attractive rounded appearance; the dates may on the other hand be stoned, but then have a sunken appearance.
Quality Duration of storage
Good dates are light brown and shiny, do not stick to one another and are not infested with mites. The most popular variety is the Deglet Noor from North Africa, which is light brown and has soft juicy flesh and a shiny appearance.
Old or incorrectly handled goods have a dull appearance and dry floury flesh and lack the distinctive sweet flavor.
Dates may become sour as a result of inadequate processing or an excessively long storage period. Sour fruit can only be used as animal feedstuff.
Provided that the recommended storage temperature and relative humidity are complied with, dried dates may be kept for approx. 6 - 12 months.
The sweet, soft varieties ("fruit" dates) are exported and are eaten raw, while the starch-rich dried dates constitute a staple food in the countries where they are cultivated. The seeds are roasted and made into date coffee.
Countries of origin
This Table shows only a selection of the most important countries of origin and should not be thought of as exhaustive.
Iraq, Iran, Israel
USA (California, Florida, Arizona)
Algeria, Morocco, South Africa
Packaging & Transport
Dried dates are packed as follows.
EPS Tray 300 gr, 350 gr, 400 gr and 500 gr Special offsett printed cartons 5 kgs
Standard containers / refrigerated containers are used, subject to compliance with lower limits for water content of goods, packaging and container flooring. Containers should be stowed below deck to prevent the development of high temperatures and thus syrup formation.
Dates require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions.
Precise details should be obtained from the consignor as to the storage temperature to be maintained.
Favorable Travel Temperature
At temperatures < 10°C, possible mite growth is inhibited while it is promoted by heat.
At temperatures > 25°C, syrup forms and fermentation may occur. There is a risk of the syrup ("date honey") seeping out of the packaging and damaging other goods. Discoloration may also occur, such as darkening or blotchiness.
The product should not be stored close to heat sources.
Dates require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions
Precise details should be obtained from the consignor as to the relative humidity to be maintained.
Humudity / Water Content
14 - 20%
*Maximum Equilibrium Moisture Content
At a relative humidity > 70%, dates have a tendency to become moldy, to support yeast growth and to ferment.
At a relative humidity < 60%, dates become tough and hard.
Dates are strongly hygroscopic. Moisture, in particular ship sweat and direct contact with seawater or rain, causes fermentation. If this is the case, the entire consignment may start to ferment. * Maximum Equilibrium Moisture Content The maximum equilibrium moisture content describes the active behavior of a hygroscopic material (product or packaging).
Hygroscopic materials release water vapor until the surrounding air exhibits a relative humidity corresponding to the equilibrium moisture content of the material. Each material has its own wholly specific equilibrium moisture content.
As water vapor is released, the water content of the material diminishes and the water content of the air rises, i.e. the material dries out. A continual supply of fresh air, which has a relative humidity which is lower than the equilibrium moisture content, would cause the material to release ever more water vapor (shrinkage). The eventual consequence of this would be, for example, that fruit would increasingly dry out and diminish in quality. It must therefore be ensured that air in the system is not too dry, so as to prevent excessive drying-out.
Conversely, supplying air which is too moist may, for example, lead to the onset of spoilage or corrosion of goods due to excessive humidity or the absorption by corrugated board packaging of moisture from the ambient air, making it damp and causing it to lose its stability. This then causes problems where several cartons are stacked on top of one another, since the cartons at the bottom are no longer able to withstand the stacking pressure and so collapse.
Dates require particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly ventilation conditions. If the product is at "shipping dryness", i.e. if there is no risk of degradation by mold etc. due to water content, ventilation is not required. If this is not the case, the following ventilation measures should be implemented:
Recommended ventilation conditions: air exchange rate: 6 changes/hour (airing)
Dates display 3rd order 3rd order biotic activity.
They belong to the class of goods in which respiration processes are suspended, but in which biochemical, microbial and other decomposition processes still proceed.
3rd order biotic activity:
Goods in which respiration processes (external respiration) are suspended, but in which biochemical, microbial and other decomposition processes still proceed, such as meat, fish, processed grain products, dried fruits, spices, cocoa and coffee beans, tea, tobacco, expellers, fish meal. Such goods are not provided with hermetically sealed packaging.
At temperatures > 25°C, syrup forms and fermentation may occur. There is a risk of the syrup seeping out of the packaging and damaging other goods. Syrup removal is extremely difficult. Washing out of the hold/container with fresh water is problematic, as the water and the syrup form a sticky foam, which is difficult to remove.
Dried dates are extremely sensitive to contamination.
The packages must be secured appropriately in the hold or container so that they cannot move during transport. In the case of container transport, it is also important for the goods to be secured in the door area so that they cannot fall out of the container when the doors are opened.
Exposure to heat and moisture may result in mite infestation, which may make the dates inedible and cause severe gastrointestinal conditions. Mite infestation may be determined by examination with a magnifying glass: mites may be distinguished from crystallized glucose because they are whitish, slow moving dots. Development from the egg to imago (sexually mature insect) takes 10 days.
If mite infestation is slight, the product may usually still be rescued by heating.
Infestation with moths (almond moth, meal moth), beetles (sap beetle, sawtoothed grain beetle, flour beetle), rats, mice and ants leads to contamination and loss of volume. It often has its origin in the country of production and entails depreciation of the product together with the fumigation and heating costs involved in reconditioning. A fumigation certificate must be provided.