August 23, 2012

By Anne Walker

Though you wouldn’t think of the Old West as a place to find a traditional treat of the Middle East, the Yuma area is the world’s largest producer of gourmet Medjool dates – long known as the fruit of kings.

The annual harvest takes place from August through October, so fall is the perfect time to “make a date” to discover why even Saudi Arabia imports Medjools from our corner of Arizona, recognized by Guinness World Records as the sunniest place on earth.  Yuma’s ideal growing conditions mean that local growers don’t need to use pesticides or chemicals to produce a heaping harvest of these tasty treats – up to 10 million pounds a year, worth $30 to $35 million to the local economy.

Medjool dates are a “super food” that’s naturally fat free, high in fiber, potassium and anti-oxidents, and low on the glycemic index.  Bursting with flavor, soft but chewy Medjools are so richly delicious that many first-time tasters can't believe they have no added sweetener.  That’s why the local specialty, an ice cream milkshake made with dates, is an indulgent treat you can feel good about enjoying.

Plus, desert dwellers and savvy “early birds” know October is a great time to soak up the sunshine ahead of the crowds, with warm days (average high 32C) and cool nights (average low 15C).  Devote fresh fall mornings to golf, hiking or biking and savor our beautiful sunsets through long, lazy evenings … and if it gets a bit warm midday, it’s a good excuse for a siesta, a cerveza fria -- or both!

While you’re making dates, mark your calendar for Yuma’s first annual Date Festival November 17 in historic downtown.  There will be displays of specialized machinery and small antiques pertaining to the history of local date agriculture, an art display, entertainment and vendors showcasing date products, along with free tours of a local date garden.

To find out more about Medjool dates and our dedicated local growers – along with great date recipes – go to www.naturaldelights.com.  To plan your trip and discover even more reasons to make a date with Yuma this fall, go to www.visityuma.com.  With more than 23,000 sites in RV parks and resorts – plus dry camping available on public lands in the wide open spaces all around -- you’re bound to find your perfect winter retreat in sunny Yuma.

Fun fact:  The Medjool palms in Yuma “date back” to 11 offshoots brought from Morocco in 1927 to protect them from an outbreak of disease.  The Moroccan palms were first “quarantined” in Nevada; offshoots of those trees were first planted in Yuma in 1944.

August 23, 2012

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Medjool Date Festival

Updated information regarding the up coming festival on November 17th. Join us for free breakfast beginning at 8 a.m. come and enjoy a 'date' muffin and coffee. A day of education, entertainment, displays and fun for all until 4 p.m. You won't want to miss this...for more information contact me at: (928) 373-5028.

Perlita Wicks, Heritage Festivals Coordinator more than 1 years ago

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