Dates come from the palm tree known as Phoenix dactylifera, which many sources agree probably originated near Iraq. The tree, more simply known as date palm, is cultivated in many countries, including Spain, India, Pakistan, China and the United States.
The date fruit is oval or cylindrical in shape, with an outer flesh surrounding an inner shell with a pit or seed inside. It ranges in size from 3 to 7 centimeters in length, depending on the variety and the degree of ripeness.
Dates are sold in grocery stores year round and are available soft, semi-dry and dried. They are chopped and added to fruit salad, stuffed with fillings such as cream cheese or almonds, and used to make juice or syrup. Dried or soft dates can also be eaten straight from the hand as a snack or sweet treat.