Do Dates Go Bad?

So you decided to buy some dates to test them out in a dessert or because a recipe called for some. You’re new to dates, so the first question you ask is: do dates go bad?

And then you learn there are many varieties of dates, some of them sold soft, others dry, and the semi-dry ones in between. So naturally, you wonder if you can store all of them the same way, or not. And if the shelf life is different between varieties. In short, lots of questions pop up after learning about that. Or at least lots of them popped up in my head.

In this article, I summarize what I learned about different varieties of dates, their shelf life, ways of storing, and signs of going bad. If you’d like to learn a thing or two about this fruit, read on.

Packages of dates
Image used under Creative Commons from Ella Olsson

How to Store Dates

Okay, so first all, while there are many cultivars of dates, only a few are really popular. The most popular ones are the Deglet and Medjool varieties. That means if you bought a package in the supermarket, it’s probably one of the two. And even if you got a different variety, storage guidelines stay pretty much the same.

There are three options when it comes to storing dates. These include keeping them at room temperature, like in the supermarket, refrigerating, or freezing them. Like with pretty much any other fruit, the longer you expect to store the dates, the colder the environment should be.

For short term storage, like about a month or less, room temperature is okay. Just make sure the fruit sits in a cool and dry place, away from sources of heat. The pantry or a dark cabinet in the kitchen are both perfect choices. Once you open the container, make sure to seal it tightly or if that’s not possible, transfer the dates to an airtight container or a freezer bag. They will last longer and won’t dry out this way.

For long term storage, the fridge is a far better option. In fact, some companies recommend the refrigerator as the place where you should keep their fruit. If you live in a hot climate, the fridge should be your primary choice. Once again, remember to keep the container sealed tightly, or use your own if the original one doesn’t keep a tight fit. Good protection from the environment is especially important for softer dates so they won’t dry out. The dry ones fare much better in the fridge, even if they aren’t sealed that well.

If you need to store dates for a very long time, freezing is an option. And unlike many other fruits, such as apples, dates freeze really well and without any preparation. That’s because they are very high in sugar. If you take a look at the nutrition data of a Medjool date, there are 16 grams of sugar in a 24-gram date, so that’s quite a lot. If your package is still unopened, just chuck it into the freezer. Otherwise, transfer the dates into a freezer bag and container first. Just make sure they’re tightly sealed.

Dates in a cupImage used under Creative Commons from sunny mama

How Long Do Dates Last

As I already mentioned, there are quite a few cultivars of dates. And while their shelf lives aren’t exactly the same, these basic guidelines should be enough for you to know.

First and foremost, the dates last quite a long time, compared to other fruits, such as bananas. At room temperature, they can last between a month up to 3 months. When you keep them in the fridge, they retain quality for between 6 and 12 months. For even longer storage, freeze the fruits. If your dates are on the softer side, their shelf life will be shorter than of the drier varieties. That means you should pay attention to the lower value in the time spans given.

PantryFridge
Dates1 – 3 months6 – 12 months

Please note that the periods above a estimates only.

How To Tell If Dates Have Gone Bad

First of all, if the dates have sugar specs (or white film), that’s okay. The condition is reversible: just put the dates in sunlight for some time or microwave in a resealable bag with a few drops of water for 30 seconds.

But if dates turned darker in color, or have any signs of mold, toss them out. Same thing when they smell off or rotten. If their appearance is alright and the smell is like usual, give them a taste, and based on this decide what to do with them. If the taste isn’t up to your standard, feel free to discard them due to quality reasons. Otherwise, they’re perfectly fine to eat.