If you have never visited the Coachalla valley area, you are missing out on some rich history. During the early 1900's entrepreneurs from all over the world flocked to what was known as the Date Gold Rush.
Palm dates thrive in low humidity environments. The quandary though is they also need a significant amount of water at the roots to survive and flourish. During the late 1800's and early 1900's a natural underwater aquifer was discovered and the date rush was on. Having a dry desert landscape with a natural water source was just the perfect environment for the Palm Date to flourish. Many of the entrepreneurs soon found out just how fruitful these palm dates could be if harvested correctly and word soon begin to spread.
Another major event that spurred the "date gold rush" was the formation of the Salton Sea. The Coachella valley sits in between Palm Springs and the Salton Sea. More notably California state route 111 runs from Palm Springs to the sea. In it's heyday the Salton Sea was a tourist attraction for many of the Hollywood elites during the 40's and 50's. Tourists form all over the wold flocked to the man made disaster in the middle of the desert. The sea was formed when a damn broke in Imperial County causing the massive Colorado river to flood the Salton sea basin. For two years straight the Colorado flooded this vast valley. With that, the Salton Sea was formed. This provided a heavy flow of additional traffic to the Coachella valley and surrounding areas.
One of the pioneers of date propagation during this time was Floyd and Bess Shields who started Shields Date Gardens in 1924. He would regularly give lectures in his gardens; educating his customers on date life, date culture and "the sex life of a date" - a 15 min featured film that still plays to this day at the location. Floyd was an innovator cross pollinating different types of palms and ultimately creating two of his very own date creations. These two dates which are known as "brunette" and "blonde" dates and only sold through his gardens. And the blonde and brunette hybrids are still available to this day. Adding to his list of achievements he invented and trademarked a product known as "Date Crystals" A sweet hard candy like substance made with dates. Many people use them on cereals and in other instances where a sweetener might be needed. His date crystals are also a key ingredient in their ever so popular Shields Date Shakes. Shields date gardens was purchased by Jewel Date company in 2005. They are carrying on the traditions of Floyd and Bess and still a very popular tourist attraction that sees many visitors daily.
It's estimated that there are over 80,000 fruit bearing palm trees in and around the Coachella valley. And several varieties such as Medjool Dates, Hayani, Bahri and Deglet Noor dates. This massive agricultural valley is said to provide over 95% of the nations fruit dates. When you eat your next fruit date their is a 95% chance that it was grown in the coachella valley. Historians have also traced back that much of the California dates that we eat today are offspring's from the initial palm dates that were planted in this valley over 100 years ago.
If you are ever in southern California it's highly recommended that you make the trip and see for yourself all the nature and history that this area holds.