Wanted to share with you a short “day-cation” hubby and I took earlier this year as part of a field trip we did with our small gardening group. The place we visited is definitely worth mentioning here on my blog. And yes, we finally ventured out and away from our beloved garden to expand our horizons and shake off a bit of cabin fever.
I also wanted to mention that this trip was one of a small handful of short day trips hubby and I have taken this year. Of course, ALL of our trips revolved around edible gardening. Would you expect anything less? So let the “sharing” begin 🙂
For those of you who love to eat dates, want to plant an edible date tree, or are just looking for an excuse to get out and stretch your legs and take in some fresh air… this just may be the “day-cation” you’ve been searching for.
Today’s destination… China Ranch Date Farm. Would you believe that a lot of locals here in town are completely unaware of this gem in the desert? Be sure to check out their website for an insightful look at the history of the property and the ranch itself. It’s quite interesting.China Ranch Date Farm is tucked away within the Mojave Desert at the southern tip of Death Valley and a short walk from the Old Spanish Trail. Folks, this is truly an oasis in the desert. The farm is about a 2 hour drive off State Hwy 160 from North Las Vegas, so bring along lots of water, driving snacks, awesome head-bobbing music, and of course, a picnic lunch. You may opt to leave the sweets at home. The farm’s bakery serves up several sweet delectable treats that’s available for purchase to all who visit 🙂
In addition to the date farm itself, there are several trail heads on the property for those of you who love the great outdoors and hiking. For those of you who’d rather kick back and relax, there’s a hot springs nearby that offers soothing hot mineral baths. Something for just about everyone.
Though the drive to the farm was quite uneventful through the desert with its open arid landscape, the scenery became much more lively as we drew nearer to the farm. To gain access to the farm entrance, the drive required some easy maneuvering on a curvy dirt road through a section of tall cliffs and a couple of knuckle clenching steep hills, reminiscent of a thrilling roller coaster ride. Once through the gates and the dust settled, the change in landscape was clearly evident. Green. Beautiful.
I have to say that I’m thoroughly impressed with this enchanting place. From the large date orchard that’s home to several unique varieties of date palms, to the attention given to the health and well-being of the palms and property.
Our visit began with an in-depth tour of the orchard and property, by the owner and orchard caretaker, Brian Brown. He was so generous with his time and provided such great insight into the current happenings and humble beginning of this truly beautiful desert destination.
Most visitors can freely walk the property by way of a self-guided tour map that can be obtained at the gift shop/bakery. Our guided tour started with a short hike alongside a natural creek which was heavily protected by the shade cover of cottonwoods and willow trees. A nice reprieve from the desert heat.
This cool shady spot, my friends, is a perfect place to sit and relax for a while and take in all the wonderful sounds of nature and the natural creek that runs through the property. Just watch out for the gator in the water though. Seriously, folks, there are no alligators in the desert. It’s just a silly decoration compliments of the owner 😉
As we exited the shady retreat, we made our way down the trail to the first of many awe-inspiring palm orchards on the property. A very humbling experience indeed, standing among these gorgeous giants.
Now, at this point you may be wondering what the white bags are that are hanging from some of the date palms. These sturdy cotton bags are used to help protect the dangling date fruit. Like most other fruit trees… the birds adore the fruit. So much so, that if left unprotected, the birds would either devour every date in sight or simply peck unsightly holes in all of the fruit rendering them completely useless. To prevent this, a few months before harvest, Brian and his staff steady themselves on ladders and other equipment to install the bags. As you can imagine, the use of ladders and other climbing equipment is frequently used within this orchard.
In addition to installing the cotton bags every year just before harvest, Brian and his staff climb up into the canopy of each and every tree to either collect powdery pollen or to hand-pollinate each flower bud. Yes, it’s absolutely true. This laborious task helps to ensure a plentiful and reliable harvest each harvest season. Believe it or not, hand pollination is a fairly standard operating procedure for a lot of commercial orchards. Thank goodness for the ease of home orcharding with honey bees and native bees 🙂
As we continued on our tour, I was simply amazed at the variety of dates available beyond the standard two varieties (Medjool and Deglet Noor) sold in stores. A sample station is set up at the gift shop/bakery for visitors to taste the unique flavors of each date variety. I highly recommend doing this while you’re there.
On our tour, we also visited an original grove of very old date palms that where here when the property was purchased by Brian’s family in 1970. The palms were in such a mangled overgrown mess that it took years for Brian and his family to make them presentable and less hazardous to visitors.
Throughout our tour, we encountered several old and interesting structures befitting to the style of this date farm. I love it! Like something right out of the wild west 😀We ended our wonderful tour with a quick stop at the date palm nursery and a visit to the gift shop and bakery, making sure to sample each and every variety of date offered at the sample station ~ Yum!
Then, to finish off our visit, we enjoyed a nice lunch with tour friends under the protection of the farm’s quaint picnic area. An absolutely wonderful close to our awesome day.
At the start of this trip we had every intention of purchasing a date palm during our visit to take home and plant in our orchard, but unfortunately, their date palm nursery was empty. We had visited the ranch a bit too early in the season. For those of you interested in purchasing a date palm for your garden, there is no better choice. The farm’s date palm stock is of high quality and an exceptional deal compared to most local nurseries in town. Besides, a lot of them get their palms directly from China Ranch Date Farm. Why not go directly to the source?
For those of you interested in purchasing a “fruiting” date palm for your garden, the best time of year to purchase a date palm pup is in spring, around April/May. This when the farm is wrapping up their harvest season and have had a chance to fully stock their nursery with new pups fresh from the orchard.
Just think… you could have your very own “fruiting” date palm with a potential yield of 100 to 300+ lbs per year from a single palm. That’s a lot of fruit! We’re not even talking about the potential savings and health benefits of growing a date palm in your very own biologically infused mineral rich soil 🙂