This is John Kohler with we’re
here at the China Ranch here near the Death Valley, we’re in this canyon here and we’re
going to go visit China Ranch, they started planting date trees in 1990, so they’ve
been growing for about 20 years. So, today we’re going to learn more about dates, how
they grow and I’m even going to pick up some dates to bring back home with me. So, we’re here at the China Ranch date farm
here in Tecopa, California once again it’s about an hour and a half from Las Vegas, nice
drive through the dessert. So, we’re going to give you the full grand tour here at the
China Ranch date farm. First, we’re going to go on a tour of the orchard and I’ll
show you all the date palms growing the dates and we’re lucky they’re in harvest season
which runs from September through the end of January and then next we’re going to
show you the date palms that are for sale and then we’re going to actually get a behind
the scenes tour of how the dates are processed and I can guarantee the dates are not heated
above 118° here, and then finally we’re going to go to the gift shop.
So, we’re here at the China Ranch and this is their date orchard and these happen to
be the field of Dayri dates, this date is originally from Iraq and they produce about
100 pounds per tree and that’s actually light yielding so, 100 pounds that’s a lot
of fruits to eat. You can see here they have a nice use of different kinds of blankets
and old dresses and shirts and different things up and that also, besides looking pretty,
basically the functionality of that is to basically keep the birds from eating the ripe
dates, the birds love the ripe dates but if they don’t see them, they won’t eat them.
So, you could come up over here and we could look underneath the drapes here and you can
see all these red dates are not yet ripe, you’ll see an occasional black date that
is one of the ripe dates. So, how these are harvested what they’ll do is they’ll come
underneath here and they’ll shake and when they shake… oh! There you go, when you shake
them, you get the ripe ones so once you have a ripe date, if you get the pit out of a date…
wow! That’s pretty good, fresh date. Now, if we take and plant this pit… dates are
not true to seed and what that means is if you plant this pit you’re not going to get
this same exact fruit. the way these are propagated or basically how they make new trees of the
same variety is they take what is called the offshoots and this Dayri makes a lot of offshoots,
you can see each one of these coming off the main trunk at the bottom is an offshoot. So,
this is an offshoot, here’s an offshoot over here, one over here and basically they
cut these off the tree and then they root them. Stick them in the ground to grow new
roots and actually each one of these offshoots will turn into a basically genetic clone of
this tree and that’s how all Dayri dates are formed. All the Dayri dates in the world
started from just one tree; same thing with Medjool dates, Medjool dates started off with
one tree, they’ve been basically separated off, planted and then they have new trees
of the same exact variety. So, here at the China Ranch, they have a lot
of seedling varieties or special varieties and those are the ones that they’ve gotten
from seeds that they planted. When you plant a seed to get a date tree you never know what
you’re going to get, sometimes they’re going to be good, sometimes so not and I prefer
actually some of the seedling varieties or the hybrid varieties because you never know
what you’re going to get and some of them taste amazing. Let’s continue on our tour
and check out some of the other trees and other date varieties here at the China Ranch.
Now we’re at a field of the China Ranch hybrids so, these trees these are all basically
seedling trees. So, they planted seeds from dates, they got some really good varieties,
then they got the offshoots and this is a really good example of an offshoot. this is
the main tree right here and then this is the offshoot that kind of grows out of the
trunk and they basically whack this off and they plant this one and this one turns into
another tree and each of these hybrid trees produce between 100 and 300 pound of dates
per year. So, if you just had one date tree and you were in a good climate where you could
grow dates I think you’d have enough dates for the year.
So, here are some of the hybrid dates ripening up, you could see it has the standard yellow
classic color of the dates when they’re unripe and you could all the different ripening
dates on the vine and if you want the ripe ones, once again shake it a little bit and
the ripe ones will fall off for you. So, here’s a ripe one… mmm one of the best dates I’ve
ever had, I never had them fresh of the tree like that before, everybody should have fresh
dates, so good. We’re here in the Khadrawy orchard now,
the Khadrawy date; this is the Khadrawy date palm. The Khadrawy date is actually originally
from Iraq, it’s a nice, small, black date, they’re actually delicious, I love them
and one of the nice things about the Khadrawys is that unlike other date palms that actually
get really tall these actually don’t get too tall vertically. So, they’re already
done harvesting the Khadrawy dates this season because we are here at the end of date season
and the date season started in September s, it’s kind of nice that certain date palms,
certain varieties, put our their fruit earlier or later.
While we’re here why don’t we talk about the date trees. So, I have been mentioning
these are date trees which is actually incorrect these are date palms and the reason for that
is that these aren’t actually trees, they don’t actually even have wood. We’ll show
you later a date palm, a fallen date palm, and actually how they grow. They have a lot
of small stems that come up the middle and so it’s not even really a tree. Because
the date palms aren’t really even trees, they’re palms, they’re actually more related
to the grass family than a tree so some people say that the fruits are actually somewhere
between a grain and a fruit so, I consider dates a fruit because it has seeds, it’s
not a grain because grains to me are something that don’t have any seeds.
So, this is a Barhi date palm, the Barhi is also originally from Iraq and a unique thing
about the Barhi dates is that they could be eaten before they’re totally ripe. So, in
their yellow state, which is actually called in their khalal state, they could be eaten
hard like an apple and they’re no too astringent like other varieties of dates would be. The
Barhi offshoots are kind of rare so they’re lucky they got some here at the China Ranch
and as their trees grow they pull out the offshoots and are able to grow more of the
delicious Barhi dates. So, the middle Eastern people like to get the Barhi dates in their
khalal stage when they’re not quite ripe and eat them so often times they’re really
hard to find but, when I get them, my favorite is to let them kind of ripe on the vine and
then eat them halfway in between being totally firm and being totally wet, because these
are a wet date, and to me they taste like maple syrup.
So, now we’re next to a Hayany date palm and this one is actually from Egypt, this
one makes nice, big, moist dates. But the moister the dates the more fermentation could
set in so, if you buy too many dates and they’re not refrigerated or frozen then they’ll
actually ferment and they’re not good anymore. The other thing about the date palms is that,
man! These date palms are actually dangerous. Each one of these palm leaves here has a tip
and that tip is as sharp as a knitting needle and that thing will really get you. It’s
really worse near the bottom of the… ow! Got me… near the bottom of the shoots as
they come out these guys are really sharp, you could probably use these as toothpicks,
super sharp. As they get larger… OW! Got me, ow… shit! I’m bleeding [laughs]. So,
yeah watch out for these guys are really sharp so if you’re ever around date trees, be
careful. So, behind me we have a Medjool tree and the
Medjool dates are from Morocco originally and let’s see… you can see all the white
sheets once again the white sheets are to hide the ripe fruits from the birds. So, the
Medjools are often known for their large fruits and if you go to your local health food store
you’re going to often find Medjool dates. I don’t know why people like Medjool dates,
maybe because they’re big and maybe because they’re sweet but they don’t really have
a nice intense flavor like some of the other varieties that they’re growing here. Plus,
the Medjool dates often cost more money per pound so I’d rather buy cheaper dates that
taste better than the Medjools, but that’s just my personal opinion. The Medjool date
palms will yield about 100 to 150 pounds of dates in one season, from one tree. Let’s
move on to the tallest trees here at the China Ranch date farm.
So these are the original trees that are grown here at China Ranch, they started in 1920
and the story behind it is actually really funny. They ordered some dates from a mail
order company, took the seeds and planted them and they basically got seedling trees
or hybrid varieties. About half the trees here are male and one male tree can pollinate
dozens of females and there are about 10 trees that make dates and you can see these things
are huge; they’ve been growing for 90 years now. This one didn’t quite make it and we’re
going to do a close-up to show you what the date palm looks like because it is not actually
a tree. So, this is the stump of a date palm and once again this is not a tree, we think
of the mas trees because they grow like trees and this is what it looks like. This is the
outer… if you could call it a bark, it’s not actually a bark, and here’s on the inside
if you could get a close-up on this you could see the inside is made up of individual strands
and you can see all the little strands and here is a cutaway shot because it has been
rotting out, all these strands come together collectively, all the little stems they come
together collectively and they form the whole tree. So, there’s actually no real wood
and there’s no real bark. So, these tend to rot out, these are not good for use of
structural uses but they’re good to grow food and dates are absolutely delicious.
So, this is the honey date tree and this is an American variety, this other varieties
are from all over the world, this one was actually developed in the Coachella valley
here in California and this tree bares 300 pounds from one tree in one season. Imagine
300 pounds of dates! I know I couldn’t eat that many in one year, that’s eating like
almost a pound a day and that’s insane and I don’t recommend doing that either! So,
this is a Honey date tree, Honey dates are often less expensive because they yield so
much and they’re from California unlike Medjools that cost a lot more and once again
here’s a Honey date offshoot from the tree that then they can actually cut off and then
make a whole new palm tree, that would then yield 300 pounds fruit! One year! Simply amazing.
Let’s continue on and check out some other trees here at the China date farm.
So, we’re standing next to a Deglet Noor date palm, now this date is originally from
Algeria and 90% of the dates grown in the United States are the Deglet Noors and I think
that’s very unfortunate because I like to eat a wide variety of foods. Now, why are
the Deglet Noors mostly grown in California? The main reason why these ones are grow most
in the United States is because. Number one, they harvest a lot per plant about 300 pounds
of dates per one plant in one season, that’s a lot of crop. The other reason is probably
even more important is that they’re very easy to handle when they’re harvested, the
reason for that is when the Deglet Noors are ripe they get actually dry and fairly hard
so they’re not damaged like soft dates would be damaged, they could be harvested on industrial
equipment but the problem with that for people that are into raw foods is that once the Deglet
Noors are harvested in their dry state they often go through a steaming process where
they’re basically steamed up and they plump up and they look nice and shiny and then in
that situation, those Deglet Noors are no longer raw because they have been steamed
and that’s an unnatural process. So here at the China Ranch they only sell the Deglet
Noors in their natural dry state. The Deglet Noors are also known as the “bread” date
because they’re nice and hard. So, if your Deglet Noors aren’t looking like some of
the ones here in the middle when they’re nice and dried up, they’ve probably been
steamed and they’re no longer raw so especially if you’re getting pitted Deglet Noors they’ve
probably been steamed. So, you want to make sure you get your Deglet Noors from a good
source such as the China Ranch here in California. So, this is the nursery area here in the China
Ranch and you can see all the different cuttings like I said they cut off the offshoots, the
offshoots are then planted into big pots, then they basically grow into new trees and
will make more dates. So they sell some of the offshoot plants that they have here and
they all label them, this one is obviously a hybrid variety, so they have a lot of hybrid
variety offshoots and many people use date palms as palms for landscaping but remember,
the date palms make the date fruit which are more important in my opinion than using them
for landscaping. We just got a behind the scenes tour and we’re
going to give you the behind the scenes tour here at the China Ranch. They bring the dates
in right out this back door, they bring it into this processing room and you can see
all the racks and racks and racks of dates sitting here and you can pull this up and
these were just harvested off the tree. Once they get them they bring them to this room,
they sit here until they can then get sorted out. So you can see here some of the dates
are still not quite ripe yet and some of them are and actually there’s even some ones
that have some bug damage, so the bug damaged ones go to like the pigs. So, once they harvest
all the dates and they have many different varieties as I said they have 15 different
varieties here, they’ll take the dates and then they’ll bring them over to this sorting
machine. So then they dunk the dates into the sorting machine, this has a mesh here
so all the dirt and things fall to the bottom, then the next step is they turn it on so let’s
go ahead and turn this machine on and show you how it works.
So, this is the sorting machine here and we’re going to go ahead and turn this sorting machine
on and it just rocks back and forth, it shakes the dates down and down so it shakes all the
bits of dates that aren’t good out of it and then it comes down and then the dates
come on to this little conveyor belt here. So, then the dates fall on to this conveyor
belt and when the dates are on the conveyor belt people come out here and they sort out
all the dates, the good ones, the bad ones, they keep the good ones and the bad ones get
discarded. Then, they’ll have all the sorted dates, they can pick out the good ones, the
bad ones and the unripe ones. The ones that are ready to eat go into packaging ready for
you guys to buy and the ones that aren’t quite ripe will go into the ripening room
and the ones that are good to go end up in the storage room so let’s show you those
two areas next. So, this is the date ripening room I like
this room especially now in the winter time, we can come in here and you can see the temperature,
they keeping the temperature in here with about 80°. So, that’s definitely going
to keep your dates raw here at the China Ranch and these are all ripening racks so take a
look, they’ve got all different varieties of dates on the ripening racks and look at
these colors, look at those red dates, so the red date ripen up to black and then some
of the yellow dates actually ripen up to the brown color. So, these are all ripening dates
and dates will ripen off the vine. I really like this tray here, you can see all the different
dates, most of them are black and ripe and some are still red and not quite ripe so if
you try to eat an unripe rate in most cases they’ll be highly astringent and not taste
too good. That being said, they are edible, there are a few varieties such as the Barhi
that you can eat when they’re not quite ripe and then they taste more like an apple.
So, after they ripe they get stored in the storage room so let’s go over there next.
So, this is the walk in cooler here, we’re going to go inside where all the dates are
stored before they’re shipped out to you. So, now we’re inside the storage rooms of
the dates and you can see by the thermometer on the wall approximately 40° that’s a
good temperature to keep and store your dates for a long period of time. You can also keep
them in just regular ambient air they’re not going to last as long and they may dry
out so if you’re storing them at the cold, at 40°, they’re going to last longer. So,
inside here they have basically pre-packaged dates, all the different varieties, from Honey
dates to Medjool dates, to their hybrid dates, Halawi dates. Besides the packaging they have
boxed stuff basically ready to ship out to people and they also have all the bulk dates.
So this is like a raw foodist wonderland here you could snack on dates all night long. This
is the behind the scenes tours though so most people don’t get this tour.
So, we’re here inside the gift shop and they grow 15 varieties of dates here at China
Ranch but they only have their varieties for sampling that they’re currently harvesting.
The harvest lasts from September to January, the end of January, we’re here at the beginning
of January so they have harvested many of the dates but there are still more to be harvested.
So here are the samples and you can see each variety of dates has a different taste and
texture, much like different apples. Like Fuji apples, granny smith apples. Here’s
a hybrid variety, so this is known as a seedling variety that just maybe came up they planted
from seed, next we have a drier date called the Zahidi, Honey dates they’re definitely
a sweeter softer date, this one is also another hybrid variety that one looks really good
to me. Over here we have the classic Medjool dates, I’m not a big fan of Medjools they’re
so common, here’s another hybrid variety, yet another hybrid variety, these are gourmet
dates here, Halawi dates, so this Halawi dates you can eat them when they’re yellow and
then they’re more like and apple and kind of crunchy or you could get them when they’re
more ripe and sugary and soft. Over in this container here they have some
more hybrid dates, different varieties that they grow here that are unique to China Ranch,
here’s some Dayris and some Deglet Noors that are also known as bread dates and they’re
nice and more firm and dry. So, let’s take a look around the gift shop and see what else
they have. This is a sampler box, you get 4 different varieties of dates and I recommend
taking home one of this boxes definitely good price and some unique varieties that you’ve
probably never tried before, because they only growing here. These are China Ranch hybrids,
China Ranch Gold, Honey dates and of course the standard Medjool dates. So, now we’re
in the China Ranch gift shop and this is like a little antique store they’ve got all little
kinds of cool knickknacks and different things that you could purchase. Kind of fun to look
around and see all the kind of all fashioned things they have here at the gift store.
So, I had a great time here visiting the China Ranch date farm, walking around seeing all
the different date palms and learning about all the different varieties. It’s a great
place to visit if you’re in Las Vegas, it’s about an hour and a half drive outside Las
Vegas, we’re here at the beginning of January and I highly encourage you to come during
date harvest time which is between September and the end of January and you can see the
snowcapped mountains behind us here. So, there’s also nice hiking in this area, this would
make an excellent day trip to come out from Vegas, check out all the date palms growing,
bring a nice picnic lunch but don’t forget your toothbrush to get all the date sugars
off your teeth after eating them all. So, once again this is John Kohler with
and keep eating your fresh fruits and vegetables, they’re good stuff.