Those dark dried fruits with the papery skins that Mama used to buy for fruitcake were the only dates I ever ate. They are sugary sweet and I considered them a treat.
Our friend Kenneth brought me a bucket of fresh dates from his Mama's date palm.
I didn't know dates grew locally; never did anybody point out dates growing when
I used to travel 10 counties in SW Georgia.
These are not the long and slender medjool dates that we bought at the store. These are round and oh, so fragrant.
I spent time looking for directions on ripening and preserving these fruits and how to best use them.
It seems there are 4 stages of a ripe date:
Khalal: full size fresh fruits, but still green and not edible
Bisr: colors start changing and sugars start developing
Rutab: softening and darkening
Tamr: ready for packing
These are past Khalal, I think. They have tints of red and yellow and are not astringent when bitten into. They aren't as sweet as I imagined so I guess they have not yet reached Rutab. Kenneth and Rose eat them, and 2 of their 3 grandsons. He told me I would need to ripen these further.
The various ways of ripening include freezing, which I am going to try; air drying which is in progress and dehydrating. With temperatures outside in the high 90s I opted not to try having the oven on at 180-190º F for an extended period.
Right now they are spread on an enamel broiler pan lid with nylon net above and below to keep out insects and perched on a cardboard box in the Mule Barn where they'll be hot enough to dry. I will pick out a few to freeze and a few to refrigerate.
One of the sources that I read described an acid pretreatment. They used lemon juice. Lacking lemon juice, I used vinegar and water. They needed washing anyway. There was no explanation of why pretreatment is necessary, but I figure it is to prevent mold. It isn't to prevent color changes, because dates naturally turn brown as they dry.
This morning as I read, I noted one source suggested that dates be chilled before eating fresh. There is a definite difference between the taste of mango at room temperature and cold mango flesh, so I decided I might like my dates chilled as well. Chilling mango removes the turpentine like aftertaste. It will be interesting to see if chilling enhances dates.
Among the recipes I may try are date bread pudding and oatmeal bars with date filling.