One of the most popular fruits in Arab countries, where they grow in abundance, dates have a naturally sweet flavour and a rich, chewy texture. Fresh dates are plump, shiny and dark brown in colour, dried dates should also be plump and shiny.
There are over 350 different varieties - Medjool is one of the most popular in Britain - it has a rich flavour and a deep red, thick flesh. Degelt Noor is another favourite, with its sweet, translucent flesh and mild flavour. Hadrawi dates are also available at Waitrose, they are small and fleshy and are specially selected for their delicious sweet flavour. Available all year.
Uses: Excellent in cakes, pudding and preserves. Candied dates are a traditional Christmas treat.
To store: Fresh dates can be kept in the fridge for several days.
To prepare: To remove the stones from fresh dates, squeeze the date to expose the stone at one end and then push it through the other end.