We’ve been waiting all year and the time is finally here! Harvest season is wrapping up, and our farmers are in the final steps of picking our ripe, moisture-rich Medjool dates. Our palms, some of which date all the way back to the 1940’s, provide around 200 pounds of fresh dates on each tree. Since the palmeros only have a 3 week window to harvest the thousands of acres of trees (thanks Mother Nature), our team hit the ground running. There are quite a few steps that go into growing and harvesting our Medjool dates, so I’m sharing some of my favorite facts from our recent Harvest Tour.
Behind The Scenes: Harvest Tour 2022
We recently brought out some of our friends in the media to experience the harvest season firsthand. We stayed in the heart of Yuma, Arizona, and then took a bus down to the date groves in Bard Valley. Guests were brought up into the date palms to harvest by hand, learning tips for how to shake, gather, and pour the fresh fruit into collection bins that were transported to our sorting facilities. We then took our guests to Datepac, our sorting and packing facilities, to learn about each step from sorting to packaging. One of our favorite moments from the tour was putting our guests on the sorting line where all dates are hand-sorted by look and feel. To say this job is challenging is an understatement! Most could not keep up with the speed needed - another moment to truly appreciate all of the hard work and skill it takes to harvest fresh Medjool dates.
We ended the night under the stars at our dinner in the groves, just outside of one of our growers’ home. Local chef Alex Trujillo prepared a four-course date-inspired dinner, including Tamarindo Date Margaritas, Sweet Date Tamales, Vegan “Bacon” Wrapped Dates, and more. We had the opportunity to hear from many of the growers themselves, some of whom have been growing dates for 30+ years. It was a wonderful time of bringing people together from across the country to see all of the effort that goes into making this fruit accessible and enjoyable for people around the world.
Here are some fun facts you may not know about Medjool dates:
It usually takes about 6 years after planting palm shoots for them to grow into fruit-producing trees. That’s quite the time commitment!
In order for the female palm trees to produce date fruit, our growers have to collect male palm tree pollen and dust the female trees. Our growers pollinate every tree by hand. To see the process, watch this video.
The mesh bags that our growers use are tied around the fruit arms to protect the fruit primarily from birds, but other critters as well.
There are hundreds of varieties of date palms, but the primary dates grown in the US are Deglet and Medjool dates. Deglets are a smaller and chewier date most often used to bake with, but the Medjool is a more moisture-rich fruit and is better for snacking, which is why we focus on growing the Medjool variety.
Two of the original eleven palm shoots that were brought to Bard Valley in the 40s from Morocco are still alive and growing to this day! In fact, these trees can grow to 75 feet tall and still produce fruit!
Date trees have been known to grow as long as you let them; about a foot a year to sometimes a foot and a half a year if you treat them right. Shoots can be seen at the bottom of the trees and can be cut off and replanted elsewhere. That’s how you get date palms!
Our growers produce a global crop, which means that they have to make sure that good ethical and sustainable practices are being followed in order to be compliant in practices for not just one country, but the world. They also must make sure that new growers follow the same practices, which is why you have come to expect the highest quality and taste standards for a Natural Delights Medjool date.
From Our Team
From myself and everyone on our team, THANK YOU for supporting our growers. Every time you choose Natural Delights, you make what we do possible. It’s because of you that we’re able to provide thousands of jobs in the Yuma region. It’s because of your choice to grab our products off of your local grocery store’s shelf that we get to do what we love every day. This process is truly a labor of love, but our team is passionate about not only growing the best fruit possible, but also serving and supporting communities around the world. We are grateful to serve you. Until next year!
Meet Natalia Toccoli, digital marketing manager for Natural Delights. As an avid baker, Natalia loves all things sweet, including Medjool dates of course! Her first days on the Natural Delights team were at our Harvest Tour in 2021 where she had the opportunity to get into a date palm and learn first-hand what it takes to harvest fresh Medjool dates.