Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree (Phoenix dactylifera). Date trees are native to the Middle East and North Africa and were imported to Arizona in the early 1900s, where they thrived in the desert climate.
Generally, the date palm grows about 75 feet tall. Its trunk boasts the typical chevron pattern of palm trees, where old leaves were trimmed but not like manicured landscaping palms. The palm fronds grow to about 16 feet long. Date palms are either male or female (dioecious); the males produce pollen and the females produce flowers. In nature, date palm flowers are pollinated by the wind, but under cultivation, they are artificially pollinated by hand or via a spray of water and pollen. Dates are the resulting fruit of this pollination. All dates are one-seeded, but they can vary widely in shape, size, color, quality, and consistency of flesh.
The female date palms are pollinated between late January and early February. The pollinated flower and soon-to-be dates grow until early May when they are thinned to allow for optimum growth. In July, farmers bag the date bundles to prevent dirt, insects and birds from reaching them. According to Sanchez Date Garden, “In August, the dates reach their maximum growth (which varies in size) and begin to transition color from its beautiful dark green to yellow, then a nice deep amber orange. It is at this stage of maturity that we close the bags on the bottom. The dates begin to ripen from their tips and mature until reaching the strand, and after 8 months the harvest begins usually in September.”
Deglet noor and medjool dates are the most common dates grown in Arizona. Both contain natural sugar and have a low to medium glycemic index score because they are also a good source of fiber. Fiber slows the release of the carbohydrates and provides sustained energy instead of spiking your blood sugar. You can’t do much better than this sweet snack that is also packed with nutrients like potassium (50% more potassium by weight than a banana), copper, magnesium, vitamin B6, niacin, calcium, iron and vitamin K. Dates can be refrigerated and/or frozen to extend their shelf-life.
While we love all dates, we are partial to the medjool dates brought to the market from Sanchez Date Garden in Somerton, AZ, just southwest of Yuma. Lucio Sanchez and his family are dedicated to bringing the highest quality dates to our market. The taste and texture of these dates speak for themselves, and the Sanchez family takes great pride in their crop.