Dates, one of the oldest cultivated crops, grow on a date palm tree. Dates grow in large bunches atop the palm trees, which thrive in hot climates. The fruits range in size from 1 to 3 inches and range in color from pale yellow to a dark red-brown. Dates harvested at the yellow stage require further ripening before they can be properly preserved. Fully ripe, dark-colored dates are ready for preservation as soon as they are harvested.
Line a shallow box with paper towels, which absorb the excess moisture from the date. Use a box that is less than 6 inches deep.
Lay a single layer of ripened dates in the box. Cover the dates with a sheet of cheesecloth to protect them from insects and dirt.
Set the dates in a warm, sunny location either indoors or out. Turn the dates once a day to encourage even drying, and replace the paper towels if they become moist.
Dry the dates for five to seven days, or until they are still tender but are becoming wrinkled and appear dehydrated for semi-dried dates. Leave the dates in the box dryer for up to two weeks or until they become leathery for completely dried dates.
Store the preserved dates in the refrigerator for up to six months. Alternately, store the dates at 32 F in the freezer for up to one year. Completely dried dates can be stored in airtight containers in a cool, dry place for one year.
Set unripened dates on the counter to finish ripening, which takes approximately one week.
Dates can also be dried in a food dehydrator. Follow manufacturer's instructions for drying times.
Dates may attract insect pests, so always cover the dates during drying and store them in sealed bags or containers.