There are three types of dates marketed in the U.S.:
- Soft dates, which are harvested when still soft and unripe.
- Semi-soft dates, which are firmer-fleshed cultivars and are also harvested unripe.
- Dried dates, which are allowed to sun-ripen on the tree.
A semi-soft date with firm flesh called Deglet Noor is the most commonly available variety in the U.S., accounting for 95 percent of the U.S. date production. Other semi-soft varieties found in the U.S. are Medjool and Zahidi. The soft variety most common in the U.S. is Barhi. All of these varieties are sold both fresh and dried, and it's sometimes difficult to tell which is being offered, since fresh dates often appear a bit wrinkled and both types are typically packaged in cellophane or plastic containers. Most often, the dates available in stores are either fresh or partially dried and do not contain any preservatives.