History of Medjool Dates
Dates may be one of the oldest fruits known to man. Dates were growing at least 4000 or 5000 years ago. Formerly known as Mesopotamia, the Garden of Eden was supposed to be between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The three ancient kingdoms of that area, Chaldea, Assyria and Babylonia all have left evidence that the date palms were grown there at that time. The Sumerian civilization which was in the southern part of the region left proof that dates were grown before 3000 B.C. The date palm came to the western world, like so many other fruits, by way of the Spanish missionaries, who brought seeds and planted them around their missions. In fact, some of their original palm trees (or their offshoots) planted in the late 1700's or early 1800's are still in existence in southern California and just south of the Mexican border.
It wasn't until the mid 1800's when plantations were established in the hot desert area of Arizona and California, that people started to get excited about dates. The USDA got involved and brought in some offshoots from Algeria, Irag and Egypt starting in 1890. The Medjool was imported in 1927. Although many varieties of dates were initially planted in various places, the Deglet Noor emerged as the dominant one. This was probably due to the fact that it is a semi-dry date, which keeps well without refrigeration. This date is native to Algeria.
By far, the most popular date, of true date connoisseurs is the Medjool. The king of dates! Actually, it is the date of kings as well. In earlier times, the Medjool date was considered to be such a delicacy, that the royalty of Morocco hoarded all the fruit for themselves and their families. Then, sometime around the turn of the century, a disease killed the bulk of the Medjool date palms, and if it wasn't for a defiant man by the name of Carrifi, who somehow managed to relocate eleven healthy trees (no small task), the Medjool trees managed to escape final extinction. From these 11 trees, offshoots were taken. Each tree can produce about a half dozen offshoots in its lifetime. Of course, it has taken time, but now Medjool palms are widely grown in the Bard area, close to Yuma, Arizona.