I am a Date

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It’s harvest again in the Coachella Valley. Dates in the Coachella Valley ripen from late September through December and there are 6-8 pickings per palm. I am not sure if I am ready to be picked yet. It is sometimes hard to know what is in store for a date hanging in a cluster.


That’s right I live in a tight cluster with a bunch of family and friends all very close by. Sometimes some of us are ready to be picked sooner than others for different reasons varying from sun exposure to supply and demand. As far as my life so far it has been pleasant. Hanging on a tree here in the sunny, hot, and arid climate of the Coachella Valley Desert where the sand is perfect for me to grow large and delicious. Dates are primarily grown in the United States but are also grown all around the world; I am proud to be an American date. My tree is young only 8 years old and I am its first crop so we will only yield approximately 20 pounds of dates per palm. All I can see is date palms; there are about 50 per acre here in the Coachella Valley. Down the street at another Deglet Noor date farm where the trees are more mature their trees could yield 176 pounds per palm. I am sure the future crops here will someday yield that much. I sure hope for our grower’s profits.
As you can see growing dates takes time and years to get big crops. I am a sweet snack that is also good for you. I am loaded with potassium, iron, protein, fiber and even calcium. Not many fruits can offer all of these healthy benefits. This could be one of the reasons that during ancient times people regarded the date as sacred. Dates flourished near the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in ancient Mesopotamia and seemed to spread worldwide since then.
Back to my uncertainty, I believe I am in my third stage of development. Dates go through four stages of development. Stage one is called Chimri, it is the first 17 weeks after pollination. Did I tell you that there are female trees and male trees? Well, there are and I grow on the female tree, all dates do. The male tree makes the pollen but does not produce fruit. Stage two the Khalal stage is the next six weeks when we become full grown. Stage three is the Rutab stage and is 4 weeks later when we are half ripe. The final and last stage is the Tamar stage when we are ripe and ready to eat. Oh no, did I say eat? I am not ready to be eaten. That scares me.
Unfortunately I have a more immediate concern, how will I be harvested. There are two ways. Dates can be hand picked or the entire cluster can be cut down. It seems so much kinder and gentler to be hand picked. The machete scares me; what if the farmer misses and hits me. I am so happy to be in the sun ripening naturally on my tree. Some of my cousins have told me of stories of being picked to early and put in a special climate controlled room to ripen artificially. It sounds awful, no fresh air and sunlight.
My day of concern has arrived; I see the farmers setting up ladders and scaffolds getting ready to harvest their crops. That means me; my days in the sun are over. I am watching the farmers closely, they seem to be accurate with every swift swing of the machete they grab the cluster of dates with their other arm and place it on the scaffold at their feet. We are then lowered down into the truck on the ground and taken off to the facility to be separated and boxed for shipping. The thought of being eaten has started to concern me again.
After being boxed up I was placed in a refrigerated truck and shipped very far away. I was hoping to see a new and exciting place maybe New York City or Washington D.C. Instead I was driven to a market in New Jersey and placed on a shelf in a cold store where I sat and waited to be purchased. Finally the day came and I was taken to a house and placed in the refrigerator and pushed to the back. I thought they had forgotten about me until one day I was discovered and I heard the woman say, “Honey dates have a long shelf life right? Oh, six months, perfect”. I was gone in two bites, the first one took the pit and the second one was me. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be and she seemed to really enjoy me.





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