We just returned from a vacation in Palm Springs, CA. The weather and climate were such a contrast to what we are used to, with only two seasons (hot and dry summer and even hotter and drier summer, with rare downpours that can even cause flooding), compared to our four distinct seasons that span every weather possibility from freezing cold to hot and humid (but never as hot and dry as Palm Springs). The climate and terrain were so very different that sometimes we felt as though we were on another planet. We saw cacti growing as ornamental landscape foliage. Grapefruit, orange, lemon, and lime trees are grown in yards and along tree lanes, and acres and acres of palm trees are a common site.
Did you know that there are over 119 varieties of dates, and you can find them all in Palm Springs, the Date Capital of the World? While there, we visited Shields Date Garden to learn more and to sample the many varieties that grow on their over 17 acres of date palm cultivation. We ate lunch in the cafe which features delicious breakfast and lunch dishes (I can highly recommend their Portobella Burger). Many dishes feature dates grown on the plantation, and don’t skip their gift shop for anything and everything date-related. They ship all over the world, in case you would like to send a sweet healthy treat as a gift.
Did you know that dates grow in clusters almost like grapes? I didn’t. Individual clusters must be protected from moisture or they will spoil. So, each cluster is grown in a waterproof cover that shelters the dates as they mature on palm trees. It looks kind of odd to see all those bags hanging off the trees, but it is the only way to insure a good crop, and I can testify… these dates are delicious!
Shield’s Date Garden also boasts a walk-through botanical garden featuring 23 handcrafted larger-than-life statues that depict scenes from the life of Christ. The paved path offers a contemplative journey that meanders through each scene from birth to crucifixion. At Christmas lights and music add to the effect.
Some facts about dates: Dates are high in fiber and help to improve digestion. They can be used in smoothies and other recipes as a natural sweetener. Dates are rich in minerals and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and C. And, as a bonus, dates don’t contain cholesterol or any other forms of fat. Nature’s candy, guilt-free!
If you would like to learn more about dates here is a link to the film, “The Romance & Sex Life of the Date,” which describes the painstaking process of date cultivation: https://shieldsdategarden.com/theater. This film is shown in the on-site theater (reservations not required) at Shields Date Garden, 80225 CA-111, Indio, CA 92201, Phone: (760) 347-0996.