Yuma is a city I've driven through many times. I've never actually driven TO it... until last November.
Yuma is the place that marks our exit from or return to California. It's the beginning of an adventure on the way out, or the home stretch on the way back. What took me to that quaint little town on the Colorado River? I went for the Annual Medjool Date Festival and inaugural Date Night, of course!
Medjool Dates, if you are unfamiliar, are fruits that grow in palm trees; more specifically, Date Palms. They are very popular throughout the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Egypt. They've been around so long, they're even mentioned in the Bible! Commonly referred to as "Nature's Candy," the Medjool Date is a sweeter, larger, plumper cousin to the date used for baking and found in fruit cake, the Deglet Date. If you've ever had one of the baking dates, you might think the Medjool Date tastes about the same.
My Nana used to always have them around to snack on and I often chose them over candy. I loved snacking on Medjool Dates. I had no idea they were actually good for me! I know some of you persnickety types might need a little convincing, so I thought I'd list a few of the health benefits of these tasty little treats:
- Dates have a high mineral content, which is beneficial for many different health conditions, but their impressive levels of iron make them a perfect dietary supplement for people suffering from anemia.
- One of the most interesting facets of dates is the presence of organic sulfur in them. This is not a very common element to find in foods, but it does have a worthwhile amount of health benefits, including the reduction of allergic reactions and seasonal allergies.
- Dates are high in natural sugars like glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Therefore, they are the perfect snack for an immediate burst of energy. Even so, these sweet, bite-sized, wrinkly fruits are classified with a low glycemic index, according to a study published in the Nutrition Journal.
- Dates have high levels of soluble fiber, which is essential in promoting healthy intestines.
- Dates contain selenium, manganese, copper, and magnesium, all of which are integral to healthy bone development and strength, particularly as people begin to age and their bones gradually weaken.
Date Palms came to Yuma in the early 1900's when a nasty blight in the middle east threatened to kill off all date palms. The U.S. Dept of Agriculture at the time took several palms, eleven of which were successfully planted and grown in a little farming town at the base of the Colorado River just north of Mexico: Yuma. Hundreds of trees have grown from the offshoots of those original eleven and Yuma/Bard Valley now supplies the world with over 10 MILLION pounds of Medjool Dates per year, including the countries in the Middle East where the grandfather trees originated.
As part of the annual Medjool Date celebration this past December, the Yuma Convention and Visitor's Bureau had its very first Date Night in the Groves. A group of people (myself included) met in the tiny downtown area, boarded a bus, and headed out to one of the larger date farms to enjoy a delicious dinner under the palm trees. A trio of strings was playing Music of the Night as the sun was dipping off into the western sky. At the bar, we had our choice between Wine or Date Beer. Naturally, I went with the beer. It was just the right combination of bitter and sweet and ended up being the perfect pairing to our dinner.
Interested parties won't have to wait until next December for the annual Date Festival to enjoy a night in the groves. Yuma Convention and Visitors Bureau is planning to make Date Night a monthly event. They took the month of January off to do what we all do in January: recover from the holidays. The next Date Night is perfectly scheduled for Valentine's Day weekend.
If you do decide to head out for a weekend in Yuma or if you're headed in either direction and want to take the time to stop and enjoy the fruits of Yuma's labor, I recommend staying at the Hilton Garden Inn. It's located right on the river and just a couple of blocks away from Yuma's historic downtown area, which has a couple of gastropubs, an art gallery, several shops, and all kinds of nice Snowbirds to chat up.
To make a reservation for Date Night, call 800/293-0071.