Of all the sweets that autumn brings, none are as sugary as the fruits of Phoenix dactylifera, the date palm. Spanish missionaries introduced dates to California in the 1700s, followed by other introductions in the 1800s. In the United States, they are cultivated in the Coachella Valley and in some parts of Arizona – the only places where climate conditions will support fruiting. The specific origin of date palms is unknown, but thought to be somewhere in North Africa or the Persian Gulf region. They have been cultivated since prehistoric times (perhaps for over 8,000 years) and are a staple in the diets of many peoples.

Some of the most crucial work on a date farm happens long the before the fall harvest. For date palms to set good fruit, they must be hand-pollinated in late winter and early spring. To do this, a human pollinator must collect pollen from the male trees and dust it onto stigmas of the female flowers (the pollen from one male can pollinate about 50 females). Dates are harvested by hand from September to December.

In Season

September, October, November

Recipes with Dates

Date Pinwheel Cookies


Tipsy Chocolate Date Nut Gems

Carole Walter, author of Great Cookie: Secrets to Sensational Sweets

Cocktail: Invierno Fresca

Victoria Damato, Cent’Anni Cocktails.

Articles about Dates

September 07, 2012

A Food Forest in the Desert

Fresh dates are back! Date and citrus farmer Robert Lower at Flying Disc Ranch is growing a permaculture food forest in the arid Coachella Valley.

March 26, 2010

Way Down South

The majority of the farms that sell in the market are located within 200 miles of San Francisco. But, if look at our farm map, you’ll notice a few growers down in the southern part of the state. Why offer their products at the market?

January 11, 2008

A Date to Remember

There are only a few places in North America that provide the optimal hot, dry growing conditions for date farming. Robert Lower and Christina Kelso share some of the unique techniques they use to grow twelve date varietals at Flying Disc Ranch in Thermal, California.

October 07, 2005

A Date with Autumn


CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to cultivating a sustainable food system through the operation of farmers markets and educational programs. Learn More »