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Phoenix dactylifera

Deglet Noor Dates

Deglet Noor Dates

During the relatively fruitless months that stretch between October and February (when the first fresh strawberries become available) is a good time to appreciate the fruit of the date palm, or Phoenix dactylifera.

Approximately 95% of the dates sold in the United States are grown in California’s Coachella Valley near Indio. While we were in the Palm Springs area, Martine and I spent the afternoon preceding Christmas Eve visiting two date gardens, the Oasis Date Gardens in Thermal and the Shields Date Gardens in Indio.

There are a number of different varieties of dates, ranging from the large and hypersweet Medjools to the Deglet Noors (my favorites), Zahidis, Barhis, and Khadrawies, to name just a few. When one buys relatively recently harvested dates in the Coachella Valley, they tend to be more moist. Supermarket dates just don’t cut it. Sometimes I will buy dates from our local farmer’s market in Santa Monica, because the dealer there drives in all the way from Mecca near the Salton Sea.

Below is a photo I took at the Shields Date Gardens:

Date Palms at Indio’s Shields Date Gardens

Date Palms at Indio’s Shields Date Gardens

Note the ladders dangling from the top of some of the trees. During the harvest, they are joined to other ladders so that the dates could be hand-picked. There is, insofar as I know, no mechanization possible that would maintain the quality of the crop. The trees are relatively bare now: As October approaches, the bunches of dates are covered with a cone-shaped paper wrap to prevent rain and predators from damaging the crop.

Most Americans tend to be relatively unfamiliar with dates, which comes as something of a surprise to me because they are sweet, loaded with vitamins and minerals, and relatively inexpensive. But then, I have been buying them from the Coachella Valley for over forty years.


2 thoughts on “Phoenix dactylifera

  1. I think I’ve mentioned i eat dates almost every day, often on oatmeal. Lately in the supermarket there’ve been packages of small organic moist dates.

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