By Jenny Harrington

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.

Completely dried, leathery dates may require rehydration prior to use.

Step 1

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.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

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.

Step 4

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.

Step 5

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.