New This Month

date-farm-0235-d111571.jpg
California, A Desert Oasis, Lots of Sunshine ... and Great Dates

California, A Desert Oasis, Lots of Sunshine ... and Great Dates

  • Photos by Marcus Nilsson

On a lush -- and somewhat wild -- farm just outside of Palm Springs, California, farmer Robert Lower grows sweet, succulent, and very delicious dates. See how they grow and are harvested.

Advertisement
Advertisement

At Flying Disc Ranch, farmer Robert Lower has created the ideal sustainable ecosystem for growing succulent -- and delicious -- dates. He practices a style of farming known as permaculture: He never tills his land, he recycles the farm's debris as compost, and he rejects all chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. And he doesn't grow just dates; he also raises citrus, figs, pomegranates, and aloe vera beneath the airy canopy of the date palms. He encourages wild edible greens -- plants that conventional farmers would consider weeds. These plants create a perfect ecosystem for the date palms, absorbing heat and creating moisture; Lower says his dates are moister as a result. He calls his approach "an edible landscape."

Read more about Robert Lower and how he grows dates.

Learn more about different varieties with our date glossary.

Cook with dates -- try our great recipes.

Way Up High

The Date Palm

The first date palms in America were grown from seed by Spanish missionaries. Commercial date cultivation took root in California's Coachella Valley after the turn of the 20th century with the completion of a massive Colorado River irrigation project. Date-palm trees grow about one foot a year, and the harvest requires extension ladders -- and an experienced crew that isn’t afraid of heights.

In the Oasis

Growing Dates

At Flying Disc Ranch, Lower raises at least 16 varieties of dates, as well as citrus trees, figs, pomegranates, and aloe vera beneath the date palm's airy canopy.

  • Hanging Out
    Hanging Out

    A single tree can produce up to 600 pounds of fruit.

  • Cool Indeed
    Cool Indeed

    In Lower's practice of permaculture, weeds are allowed to grow underfoot as a lush and cooling ground cover.

  • Green Grove
    Green Grove

    The grove’s oasis-like green growth contrasts with the bare and dusty look of neighboring conventionally farmed groves.

  • Citrus Too
    Citrus Too

    Flying Disc Ranch also grows a variety of citrus, including these maturing Ruby Blush grapefruit.

  • Hanging Out
    Hanging Out

    A single tree can produce up to 600 pounds of fruit.

  • Green Grove
    Green Grove

    The grove’s oasis-like green growth contrasts with the bare and dusty look of neighboring conventionally farmed groves.

  • Cool Indeed
    Cool Indeed

    In Lower's practice of permaculture, weeds are allowed to grow underfoot as a lush and cooling ground cover.

  • Citrus Too
    Citrus Too

    Flying Disc Ranch also grows a variety of citrus, including these maturing Ruby Blush grapefruit.

Barhi and Beyond

Date Varieties

Flying Disc Ranch’s longtime crew gently cuts each thread from a cluster of barhi dates. Flying Disc was one of the first farms to sell fresh yellow barhis commercially in the United States.

Learn more about different date varieties; see our glossary.

When Ripe

Time to Harvest

Dates are among the most labor-intensive crops. Much of the work, including all the harvesting and sorting, is done by hand.

  • Bag and Wrap
    Bag and Wrap

    At Flying Disc Ranch, each of the grove's 4,000 clusters of dates is bagged in loosely woven cotton-blend cloth to protect it from birds and flying insects, then wrapped in paper to shed dust and dew.

  • Careful Cutting
    Careful Cutting

    Each cluster of barhis contains 100 or more “strands” that must be harvested individually.

  • Coming Down
    Coming Down

    With taller trees, each bunch is lowered from the canopy to the ground by rope.

  • Hand Work
    Hand Work

    Every date, like these medjools, has to be sorted by hand on screens.

  • Bag and Wrap
    Bag and Wrap

    At Flying Disc Ranch, each of the grove's 4,000 clusters of dates is bagged in loosely woven cotton-blend cloth to protect it from birds and flying insects, then wrapped in paper to shed dust and dew.

  • Coming Down
    Coming Down

    With taller trees, each bunch is lowered from the canopy to the ground by rope.

  • Careful Cutting
    Careful Cutting

    Each cluster of barhis contains 100 or more “strands” that must be harvested individually.

  • Hand Work
    Hand Work

    Every date, like these medjools, has to be sorted by hand on screens.

Totally Great

Savory and Sweet Date Recipes

While their role as a sweet snack is obvious, dates are also rich in healthy minerals and fiber and lend themselves to all sorts of delicious savory uses. Our visit to Flying Disc Ranch inspired us to create entrees, salads, sides, and dessert recipes with dates, like the Roasted Chicken with Dates, Citrus, and Olives, and Kale-Avocado Salad with Dates.

Comments

Be the first to comment!

Advertisement
Advertisement