There’s nothing quite like seeing where your food comes from. Its one thing to eat something put in front of you, quite another to experience where some or all of the ingredients came from. On a lovely warm spring afternoon, I was lucky enough to see where my gift of luscious dates came from. I was with a group of food and wine writers touring the Bard Date farm near Yuma, Arizona. David Mansheim manager for Bard Date Company and president of the Bard Valley Medjool Date Growers Association was our guide. The beautiful box of Medjool dates came from Debbie Mansheim owner of Basket Creations & More.
There’s a lot more to growing dates than you might think. Did you know for instance that date trees are really more of a grass plant than a tree? Yup. Very interesting, don’t you think? Medjool Dates come from palms that are not grown from seeds but from offshoots, which are suckers growing at the base of the mother palm. According to Dave, “These offshoots are chosen because they produce trees that will bear fruit superior in size and quality to those grown from seeds.” It takes ten years of zealous care and nurturing before the palms reach full production. Sounds a bit like making Champagne.
Original Medjools found in this country were imported from French Morocco in 1927 by the United States Department of Agriculture. To be sure that they harbored no disease the palms were isolated in Nevada. In 1948, some 20 years later some of the offshoots were planted in the Bard Valley across the river from Yuma, Arizona. The Colorado River, frequent floods, prior to the building of the dams on the river; built up top quality soil. This coupled with organic fertilizers and an excellent climate has made this the Medjool center of the world.
As David explained that each palm must be climbed approximately eighteen times a year to carry out the many hand operations needed such as pollination, thinning the bunches, separating the strands of fruit with wire rings to promote better air circulation and finally protecting the bunches with cotton sacks about one month before the selective picking in special cotton baskets, the group’s eyes grew wide and lots of ooh’s and ahh’s could be heard. These trees are big around, tall, and prickly. This wouldn’t be a job for wimpy journalists decked out in $100 sandals and Tommy B. shirts. This is tough, meticulous hand work that requires focus and fitness.
A Medjool Date is enjoyable to eat and excellent for cooking. To that point, the Bard Date Company has provided today’s recipe Big Party Chicken Salad, “Hearty enough for men and pretty enough for women!!” You can find more recipes in the Date Recipe Book ($3.99). It’s filled with great recipes received from Bard Date Company’s loyal customers. This book also has great pictures of thinning, pollination, harvest and scenic shots of the Medjool Dates.
For more information on the state of organic date farming today and how Bard Date Company is a trend maker, make sure to watch the video I have included for you.
BIG PARTY CHICKEN SALAD
Compliments of Bard Date Company, LLC
8 C (2 qts.) Cubed Cooked Chicken
2 C Water Chestnuts, Sliced
3 C Pineapple Chunks
2 C Seedless Grapes
2 C Diced Celery
2 C Diced Medjool Dates
2 C Sliced Nuts
2 1/2 C Mayonnaise
1/2 C Chicken Broth
1 tsp. Curry Powder (or more to taste)
2 tsp. Soy Sauce
Mix just enough to blend
Combine the chilled ingredients with enough dressing to moisten.
Serve in crisp lettuce cups.