Last week (has it really already been a week?!), I had the pleasure of flying down to Bard Valley thanks to Natural Delights Medjool Dates. They hosted a summit where seven other food bloggers and I got to truly experience the delight of Medjool date production and meet the people behind it all.
I have A LOT of pictures from the trip, so I’m breaking it down into two posts. You may have even already seen a sneak peak from the trip through Instagram! I flew into Yuma, Arizona, where I was welcomed by the piercing sun and gut wrenching heat. Lucky for us, the temperature we experienced was considered tame compared to the week before.
Let’s start out by introducing you to our little group of bloggers:
From left to right, top to bottom:
- Jackie– The Seaside Baker (photo credit for the group shot above!)
- Cynthia– Cynthia David
- Alyssa– Everyday Maven
- Nicole– Pinch My Salt
- Caroline– Chocolate and Carrots
- Me– hi!
- Catherine– Rabbit Food for my Bunny Teeth
- Theresa– My Friend in Food
For my first summit ever, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of gals to be surrounded by for three days. I am so grateful to have met such an influential and genuine group of people. Do check out their blogs when you get a chance!
Now for part one… we got to pick our own dates from a date garden!
It truly is a labor of love. Every single date branch is wrapped in a bag to keep the birds and insects away from the fruit. It’s also effective in catching ripened dates that fall off before they get a chance to pick them. Not only do they have to climb up each tree individually and harvest the ripened dates from each bag, they have to do it multiple times a season in order to gather them all.
The pickers spend ten hours a day in the sun going up and down trees, gathering only the best.
We were put into a cherry picker to the very top of the date tree and got to pick our very own dates.
You may ask, “Why Bard Valley?” Well, the high water table from the Colorado River and the low humidity create a perfect environment for the growth of a Medjool date.
Photo credit for the above four photos: Stephen Spill
To harvest the dates, you have to untie each bag, grip the bottom, use your other hand to swirl the top of the branch around, and then catch all the dates that fall off. Then, you retie the bottom of the bag and move on to the next batch.
The dates are never treated with pesticides or preservatives, so you don’t have to worry about ruining their natural goodness.
Date gardens are an impeccable sight in person. Doesn’t it just look like a king’s backyard? Each date tree grows about a foot a year, so you can judge how old a tree is just by looking at their height.
We were then fortunate enough to go see “The Big Six.” “The Big Six” are essentially the mothers of Bard Valley since the other 250,000+ Medjool date trees sprouted from these six. You can tell just how big they are by looking at this next picture for comparison:
photo credit for above: Stephen Spill
We were off to River City Grill for lunch, where we had a custom date infused three course meal.
I’m still dreaming of that date caramelized creme brulee…
Next up: Packing and processing the Medjool dates!