During our weekend getaway to Yuma, we experienced the date portion of Yuma’s agritourism. Yuma’s date history began in 1927 with Dr. Walter Tennyson Swingle, the hero of Yuma’s Medjool date industry. The Medjool date palms of Morocco became diseased and it looked like the species was going to be lost, and Medjool dates are the most sought after dates because they are large and soft, while most other date species are dry. Medjool dates are the only dates you’ll see in the produce section. The United States government decided to send Dr. Swingle to Morocco to see if he could save the species. Eleven offshoots were sent from Morocco to the United States by ship and quarantined in Nevada under Dr. Swingle's care. Miraculously nine of the offshoots survived and remained disease-free. They were transplanted to a government date research center in Indio, California and offshoots of the original nine were eventually sent to the few regions of the United States with the conditions needed to grow Medjool dates, including Yuma. All of the Medjool date trees in North America are ancestors of those nine offshoots.
Jason Rogers believes this will change in the next 10 years and that someday Americans will recognize the health benefits of dates and they will become as popular as avocados, kiwis, and other super foods. Dates are nature’s power fruit. Dates have antioxidants, potassium, fiber, and sugar with a low glycemic index, meaning you won’t get a sugar high followed by a crash. If you’re new to consuming dates and are worried you won’t eat them fast enough, there is no reason to fear. As dates have no cellular structure to break down, they can be frozen, thawed, and refrozen multiple times with no effect. Freezing actually preserves the moisture in the dates and they can last two years in the freezer, six months in the refrigerator, and six weeks at room temperature. Jason suggested baking dates stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in bacon.