The date is one of the oldest cultured tree crops in the world. In fact, my name Tamar is ancient Hebrew for "date palm". Medjool dates, with their sweet taste and tender texture, became the variety that was transplanted from Morocco to the US. Because of its desirable texture and flavor, the Mejdool was routinely reserved for royalty in the Middle East, and Medjools have been referred to as “the most famous date in the world.”
Yuma, Arizona is home to Martha's Gardens date farm. I was happy to be hosted to experience it! They have around 8,000 trees on 100 acres; you can tour the operations in a wagon. They do ship their products all over the world. I learned there are several different grades of dates:
- Jumbo - The highest grade, the largest size and most popular date they sell. It has great flavor and texture
- Large - Also a high grade, the second largest and second most popular. Same great flavor and texture.
- Extra Fancy - This grade has some minor skin blemishes, is smaller than the Large, but has the taste and texture that is very similar to the Jumbo and Large sizes.
- Mini - Their smallest date, but still very popular. It's similar in flavor and texture to Extra Fancy.
- Special - A lower grade date that has been hydrated. Good appearance, shiny skin and mixed sizes. The flavor is good, but the texture is usually more firm than the highest grade dates.
- Fancy - A lower grade date with more skin separation and varying sizes. This grade has a firmer texture and a less favorable appearance, but still has good, sweet flavor.
- Cooking - The lowest grade of date. These have skin damage and can be much firmer in texture. They're best for baking and cooking, but can also be eaten as they are.
One of the favorite parts of visiting Martha's Gardens is getting a date shake! They blend their fresh dates with vanilla ice cream.
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