Ark of Taste
Phoenix dactylifera v. abada
Date palms were domesticated in Mesopotamia, now Iraq, more than 5,000 years ago. It has long been one of the most important plants of the arid, desert areas of Northern Africa, the Middle East and Southern Asia. Named date varieties or cultivars, such as Blonde Beauty, are propagated vegetatively, most commonly as offshoots.
In the early 1900s, the USDA sent agricultural explorers abroad to bring back exotic foods to cultivate in the US. They began to import date palm offshoots from North Africa and the Middle East to the climatically similar desert areas in the Coachella Valley in California, that proved to be an excellent place to grow dates. In the first part of the 20th century the Middle East was very popular in American pop culture. In 1947 the Date Festival became an annual event celebrating the correlation between California and the Middle East. However, towards the end of the century political events (starting with the 1970’s oil crisis) strained the USA’s relationship with the Middle East, and the exotic fantasies once popular fell out of fashion. This date is a remnant of a time when the Coachella Valley looked to the Middle East for inspiration, and represents a debt owed by Californian agriculture to the farmers and orchardists of the Middle East, without whom this unique variety would not have developed.
In 1936 D.G. Snif discovered Abada dates growing wild in a riverbed in Brawley, California. The varietal name was created out of the first names of Snif and his wife, Abby and Dana.Most of the offshoots were then sold to Sunnipalms, a date garden near Indio, California where in 1955 18 palms of Abada were in production. As of 2007, there were 25 producing Abada palms in three or four small, organic date gardens.
The Abada fruit colour goes from deep red to black, with moderate to heavy bloom lending a purplish cast as fruit matures. Considered to be an early ripening variety, the fruit’s flesh is soft and melting, with a very sweet flavour. The Abada date is one of many disappearing dates that need protection and promotion to survive.