Bon Bon dates are a large varietal, averaging 2 to 2.5 centimetres in diameter and 4 to 5 centimetres in length, and have a plump, oval, tapered appearance with one pointed and one rounded end. There is also a small, light brown circular cap that can be removed by hand from the date. The skin is smooth, creased, and semi-firm when squeezed, showcasing red-brown to dark brown hues. The surface is sometimes covered in a grey coating, typically sugars that have crystallized, and it is edible or easily wiped off. Underneath the surface, the dark brown flesh is creamy, sticky, moist, and dense, encasing a thin, brown, and tapered seed. Bon Bon dates have a chewy, tender consistency and a sugary-sweet taste with caramel and brown sugar nuances.
Bon Bon dates are harvested in July through October and can be stored in specific conditions year-round.
Bon Bon dates, botanically classified as Phoenix dactylifera, are a premium date variety belonging to the Arecaceae family. The dates are a type of Medjool date cultivated in Israel and are one of the largest varieties offered in commercial markets. Bon Bon dates, sometimes written as Bonbon, are grown under strict specifications and are harvested 2 to 3 weeks before standard Medjool dates. Once ready for picking, Bon Bon dates are hand harvested and are immediately packed and shipped. The variety is not dried and is sold fresh to highlight its caramel-like flavor and smooth texture. Bon Bon traditionally refers to candies covered in chocolate, and the date variety was named after the candies for its sweet taste. Bon Bon dates are primarily consumed fresh as a luxury variety and are also incorporated into a wide array of fresh and cooked preparations.
Bon Bon dates, like other Medjool varieties, are a source of fiber to regulate the digestive tract, vitamin A to maintain healthy organ functioning, potassium to balance fluid levels within the body, and calcium to build strong bones and teeth. The dates also provide iron to develop the protein hemoglobin for oxygen transport through the bloodstream, magnesium to control nerve functioning, and other nutrients, including phosphorus, B vitamins, copper, vitamin K, and manganese.
Bon Bon dates have a sweet, rich, caramel-like flavor suited for fresh and cooked preparations. The large dates are known for their smooth, sticky flesh and are traditionally consumed straight out of hand. Bon Bon dates can also be sliced open, removing the pit, and stuffed with ingredients such as soft cheeses, nut butter, and tahini. In addition to eating whole, Bon Bon dates can be chopped into salads, sliced and layered into sandwiches, pureed into a sticky filling, blended into smoothies and shakes, or infused into a syrup. The dates are also incorporated as a binder in power balls, brownies, cookies, crusts for tarts, and puddings. A famous dessert containing dates is maamoul, a butter cookie filled with a paste of nuts and dates. Bon Bon dates can also be cooked with rice mixtures, sauteed in a skillet to create a crisp, caramelized topping for yogurt, or combined with meats in main dishes. Bon Bon dates pair well with fruits such as bananas, coconuts, oranges, raspberries, and cherries, cheeses including goat, feta, ricotta, and cheddar, spices such as smoked paprika, cinnamon, thyme, and ginger, nuts including pistachios, pecans, almonds, and peanuts, vanilla, honey, and chocolate. The dates will keep in a sealed container at room temperature for 1 to 2 months or up to 6 months when stored in the refrigerator. Bon Bon dates can also be frozen for up to one year.
Israel is the leading producer of Medjool date varieties worldwide, and Bon Bon dates are one of the premium types of Medjool cultivars produced for commercial markets. The variety was notably used in testing a date grading machine released in Israel in 2016. The revolutionary machine had the ability to sort, distinguish between varying date grade levels, and work significantly faster than the hand-sorted process previously done. Bon Bon dates were used as the test cultivar as their flesh is juicier and delicate, easily damaged. The machine, known as the Elisam Gran Torino, sorted and graded the dates successfully, forever changing the way dates are processed commercially. In 2018, another sensor was added to help separate dates with varying moisture levels and to detect internal flaws such as containing black mold. Beyond being used as test dates, Bon Bon dates have grown in demand internationally, and a group of Bon Bon farmers in Israel gathered together to create a standard for Bon Bon cultivation. Dates produced under these strict standards are stamped with a quality mark, a visual indicator that the dates were cultivated using strict, consistent, and transparent growing practices.
Medjool dates are native to North Africa, specifically Morocco and Algeria, and have been growing wild for thousands of years. Dates, in general, are one of the world’s oldest cultivated fruits, with several civilizations referring to date palms as the “tree of life.” Since the cultivation of Medjool dates began, commercial growers have created new varieties of Medjool dates to meet changing consumer demands for larger, fleshier, and sweeter dates. Bon Bon dates were developed in Israel and are a specialty variety of Medjool famous for their smooth flesh, juicy, sticky nature, and large size. Bon Bon dates are primarily grown in the Jordan Valley and near the Dead Sea, Red Sea, and Sea of Galilee. When commercially sold, Bon Bon dates are offered through local markets and grocers throughout Israel and the Middle East and are exported to Europe and Russia. The Bon Bon dates featured in the photograph above were sourced from Eataly in London, England.