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One carefully propped a foot extension ladder against a palm, climbed to the top, then mounted another ladder affixed to the top of the trunk. Who would choose to work in tall trees and ferocious heat? Untying the white polyester bags that protected the bunches, each worker shook loose the ripe dates, gently collected them in a sauce-shaped mesh basket and lowered it to the ground. If this trend continues, the industry risks permanently losing its market to imports.

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To make picking more efficient in the foot trees, palmeros worked from horseshoe-shaped metal platforms elevated by hydraulic lifts. For more and more growers, trees are their most important crop, and the fruits are secondary. Name linked to hot summer winds bahr at Basra, Iraq, whence the variety was imported to California in Soft type; early to midseason; small to medium-size, oval to nearly round fruit; khalal color buff yellow this is the only commercial date sufficiently non-astringent to be enjoyed at this stage ; rutab golden amber; tamar mahogany brown; flesh translucent golden brown, smooth and honey-flavored, exquisite in the rutab stage.

Next he hacked off a pound bunch with a machete and lowered it by rope to the ground. California growers claimed to have devised this process, but they were not the first to hydrate dates: A 14th-century Arabic cookbook written in Egypt gives instructions for moistening dates out of season by soaking them in warm water and leaving them inside a hollowed-out Torrance CA arabian women dating.

As his harvest began a few weeks ago near the town of Coachella, David Da Vall, wearing two pairs of sunglasses to protect his eyes from the glare, unloaded wooden lugs of Honey dates in the degree heat and carted them into the cooler of his packing shed, perspiration streaming down his face and neck. Starting ingrowers planted Medjools in the Bard Valley, at the extreme southeastern corner of California. Efficiency rules the harvest, which lasts from late September to December.

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Seedling of Thoory, first planted in by Everett K. In fact, packing houses dock growers for shipments with too many of the perishable fruits. Deglet Noor naturals starting in early NovemberBlonde, Brunette. To ripen commercial crops they require a hot summer with little rainfall and low humidity, but plentiful water for irrigation.

Of all the fruits grown in California, dates are surely the most exotic.

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In this way, Hadley stores dried dates for months and hydrates them as needed. But the new industry took hold, focused on the Deglet Noor variety, originally from Algerian and Tunisian oases. As the sun peeped over the Chocolate Mountains and dyed the palms flaming orange, the workers split into two-man crews. On a September morning at Royal Medjool Date Gardens, thousands of trays of dates were spread out in the sun to dry, a practice rarely seen in Coachella.

Ranks of stately palms shimmer on the desert horizon like a mirage out of the Arabian Nights, shrouded in the romance of their ancient origins and arcane lore. It was like sticking your head in a hot oven. Lower likes to call the three edibles stages of Barhi--crunchy, astringent khalalmoist rutab and dry tamar --"ooeys, gooeys and chewys. The extreme environment of date farming seems to draw eccentrics. After a few trees, the men exchanged roles.


By the khalal stage dates have reached full size and changed to the characteristic color for each variety, which may be yellow, red or pink. The demand for ornamental palms appears to be both threat and blessing for the date industry. The family sold its original property to developers inbut six months later bought new land 15 miles to the southeast in Coachella, south of Indio.

Across the Colorado River from Yuma, the Bard Valley is three to four miles wide, bounded by the river, mountains and Indian reservations.

Romance of the date

By all s, they dominate the trade in date palms for landscaping. Matilija St. Store at Seminole Drive, Cabazon; Mail order: Orchard and store at York Road, Bard. Even the best orchards produced only a small percentage of naturals, but aficionados valued them as the best eating dates that were reasonably easy to handle.

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He now farms 37 acres, specializing in soft, moist, freshly harvested dates, which he sells at farmers markets. They planted seeds from imported dates, but these mostly bore fruits inferior to those of the parent trees; only after plant explorers from the U. Department of Agriculture and private nurseries brought back offshoots of superior varieties from the Middle East, in and over the next two decades, did commercial cultivation begin.

On a September evening in the aptly named community of Thermal, Robert Lower, a grower renowned for the quality of his Barhis, emerged from his manufactured housing unit into a fenced courtyard rimmed with rusting equipment and piles of bric-a-brac. One Torrance CA arabian women dating market vendor, Enrique Bautista, worked as a palmero and foreman for 20 years until the owner retired and sold him the farm, in Mecca, just north of the Salton Sea. On a bright March afternoon, he demonstrated the age-old techniques of hand pollination, necessary for commercial production because date palms bear male and female flowers on separate palms.

On the other hand, many growers are delighted that they can earn good money selling their palms before they get impractically tall. Early settlers had marginal growing other varieties of dates in the area. Organic Medjool. His hands still white from finishing a surfboard, he drove a beat-up truck into his jungle-like Flying Disc Ranch date garden to harvest Barhis. Middle Easterners and connoisseurs most esteem the third stage, soft, golden amber rutab dates, which have a delicate flavor and a tinge of acidity to complement their sweetness.

Even more mysterious are their peculiar methods of reproduction and the improbable trade that both sustains and threatens them.

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Descending the foot, V-shaped ladder, Romero slid down the last 10 feet with his feet on the sides, grinning and whooping. Six months after pollination, dates reach the khalal stage, when they are hard, crunchy and fairly sweet. On a freezing morning last November at Hadley Date Gardens in Thermal, a dozen palmeros warmed their hands around a fire in a acre block of ancient, foot-tall Deglet trees. Several families from this heroic age still grow dates today.

Date growers use the Arabic terms for the four main stages: Kimri refers to young, green fruits. Lower opened up a card table, bent down a heavily laden fruit stalk, snipped off the strands and filled up a carton. Keck noted that date growers, like many farmers, face a host of problems, including low-priced imports, crop-damaging mites and soil compaction. Young and his representatives declined to be interviewed for this article.

The Medjool, on the other hand, tolerates such conditions and especially flourishes in the rich brown alluvial soil of the Bard Valley. He cut a few strands, rubbed them over a mesh screen and collected the fragrant pollen into a jar. Nothing beats a Barhi ripened on the tree, however.

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Why not secure your share? The real point of harvesting Barhis at this stage is that they are firm enough to be shipped, but after a day in the sun or, with a bit of luck, a few days in a warm spot in the kitchen they ripen, tip first, into supremely luscious rutab dates.

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At the crown he fastened a safety harness and began ripping off the protective paper cones, Torrance CA arabian women dating fluttered down amid a hail of loose dates. He then told how his great-great-uncle Everett Da Vall rode freight trains from his native Pennsylvania to California in Everett found three of the seedlings worth propagating, the soft, creamy Honey, the caramel-like Empress and TR named for its position in the third rowa long amber-yellow date so exquisitely tender it only keeps for a few weeks.

Farmers of other tree fruits would love to have that option in tough times. Medjool rutab available early in season. Barhi, Deglet Noor and Medjool. Few Americans have ever tasted such dates of the highest quality, and even fewer realize the great diversity of date varieties and stages of maturity, from fresh to fully dried. At Fullerton farmers market W. Orangethorpe Ave. Mail order: Send self-addressed, stamped envelope for price list to P.

BoxThermal, CA ; Bermuda Dunes. In truth, farming practices and care during harvest affect fruit quality more than the differences in growing areas, but, everything else being equal, Jim Freimuth of Oasis Date Gardens, who grows Medjools both in Thermal and Bard, gives a slight edge to the Bard dates. Most varieties grown in America are too astringent to be palatable fresh, except for the Barhi, a nearly round, buff-colored date that has long been popular with Middle Easterners and has recently become more available at mainstream markets. Meanwhile, a palmeroJuan Romero, worked high in a Zahidi tree, tying three strands of male flowers into the center of the long, greenish-yellow female flower clusters.

Unlike most fruit trees, which can be pruned to manageable heights, a date palm dies if its terminal bud is cut, so it never stops growing, at the rate of about a foot a year. While the niche for Barhi is expanding, the large, meaty Medjool has taken over much of the high-end and gift markets. Since the trees were still young and short, picking was easy. As so often happened in the history of California agriculture, real estate promoters fueled the great date boom of toenticing settlers to buy plots of Southern Pacific Railroad lands.

Old-fashioned naturals from multiple harvests are hard to find today, but David Da Vall produces a few, and Leja Farms in Coachella sells them by mail order. Orchard and store at Hwy. Mail order: Send e-mail to patozdrm aol. The palmeros performing these arduous tasks work their own blocks of palms and are highly skilled, valued employees. Orchard and packing house sales at Van Buren St.

Deglet Noor naturals starting in mid-OctoberMedjool.

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He brought back 11 offshoots and placed them in quarantine; the nine that survived took a long time to reproduce in commercial quantities--each mother palm generates only 10 to 15 shoots in its lifetime. Freshness and texture are key for rutab dates, so Da Vall picks his palms three times as the fruits ripen. His partner swung the bunch over to a large wooden bin, then shook and flailed it until the dried, hard dates flew off into the bin.

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