For the past year, I’ve created recipes for Natural Delights using fresh, wholesome Medjool dates…
Each recipe is an opportunity to share a healthy way to add natural sweetness while benefiting from the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber found in this delicious fruit! Dates are nutrient dense and easy to enjoy on their own or paired simply with a dollop of nut butter or soft cheese. But, to take it to the next level and give you an idea of the versatility and incredible flavor they offer, be sure to check out my recipes below!
- Stuffed Bacon Wrapped Dates
- Collagen Chia Pudding
- Chocolate Chile Energy Bites
- Coconut Chocolate Energy Bites
- Caramel Apple Crumble (with Date Caramel Sauce)
- Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette
- Dairy Free Whipped Cream
- Bacon, Date, & Arugula Pizza
When I was asked to be a Natural Delights brand ambassador and continue to create content I was thrilled!
As part of this role I was invited to join the team for the Harvest Tour in Palm Springs and Yuma a few weeks ago. Date Harvest season was in full swing and experiencing it first hand helped me understand and appreciate the process on a much deeper level. Click here for my highlight reel!
I want to give you a peek into our fun and educational week on tour…
I had the opportunity to meet and mingle with people in various roles within the company. I was grateful to be invited and everyone was friendly and eager to share their knowledge. We connected with the growers, farmers, PR/sales/marketing team, and even a food scientist involved in developing new products! Of course, there were plenty of sweet details included on this trip, such as the delicious date shakes we were served (one with Kahlua!) and samples of Natural Delights newest product (not in stores yet, coming soon)!
Harvest Tour Days in Palm Springs and Yuma
Our look into date harvest season was very detailed and comprehensive. And, let me tell you…what goes on behind the scenes to bring dates to your table is fascinating! It was an important reminder of the skill, labor, and care that goes into bringing food into our homes.
Visiting the Date Groves
The sunny date groves in Palm Springs and Yuma were breathtaking!
Imagine rows upon rows of beautiful palm trees filled with dates. We learned about the history of date palm trees in the area and the entire process of growing and harvesting. Did you know that each palm tree produces more than 200 pounds of dates each year? Many of the farms are family owned and have been in operation for generations!
Something that was surprising to me was the meticulous attention the date palms require to produce fruit. From dethorning to pollination by hand, to covering the branches in net bags to protect from birds, and multiple trips up and down the trees at harvest to check for ripeness…there is much care and expertise at each step of the process!
A major highlight of the tour for me was the Palmero experience in Yuma!
We accompanied an experienced palmero (date farmer) 35 feet up into a date palm, harnessed to a lift, to collect ripe dates. They showed us how they shake and open each bag to check for plump, ripe dates then tie the bottom back up to allow the remaining dates to ripen. I couldn’t help but think about Natural Delight’s slogan, Raised on Sunshine, while I was up in the palm tree gathering sweet, sun ripened dates! The dates are brought back down on flats to be sorted and the palmeros return in a couple of weeks to check for readiness again.
Sorting the Dates
It was amazing to witness the precision of the date sorting process in action! First, the dates are hand sorted by softness and appearance. Then they’re separated into groups. The dates that need more time go to heat/humidity controlled rooms and the ripe dates then go to the sorting machines for even further sorting by weight, grade, etc. We also got to take a turn on the sorting line, and it was a challenge to make quick, precise decisions. I don’t think I made the cut, ha!
Packaging the Dates
Many things need to happen during the final step of the process, before the packages of dates leave the factory. Finished dates are sorted/graded further into packages and scanned for food safety. There’s also a special area where date paste and date paste products are made. (If you’ve ever eaten a larabar or rxbar, you’ve consumed date paste!)
After seeing everything that occurs up to this point it was exciting to see the packages of dates labeled and finally, boxed to be sent out into the world! Natural Delights can be found on shelves globally!
Each time I create a new Medjool date recipe I’ll feel inspired by this experience!
This is a close-knit industry with many family ties, in a small radius of the region. There are generations of people, working together for a big community impact! I have so much appreciation for the time, energy, and skill it requires to get delicious dates from the palm tree to my pantry! I’ll always remember how much pride there is in the work of bringing dates to our tables!
Do you have any questions about dates or how to incorporate them in everyday recipes? I’m happy to provide recommendations based on what I’ve learned. Special thanks to Natural Delights, DMA Solutions, and Elephant House PR for hosting me on this incredible tour!
Thanks for stopping by & have a great day!