Date shake yuma

Date shake yuma DEFAULT

You must try: A date shake in Yuma

Surprisingly, there’s an awful lot of agriculture in the Yuma area (90% of the lettuce in the US is grown in Yuma in the winter months), and in recent years agri-tourism has become popular. You can take organized tours of farms in the area, or just drive up and check some of them out, like I did. It feels strange to drive through so much green farmland, when so much of Arizona is desert.

The highlight of these agriciltural tours is getting to taste the mighty date shake, a deliciously sweet and creamy conconction that is perfectly cooling in the desert sun. If you go to the Imperial Date Gardens, which is actually in Bard, California, but reachable from Yuma and pretty much straddling the CA/ AZ border, then they do a most perfect date shake in their farm store, and you can also pick up chocolate dipped and almond stuffed dates, as well a bunch of gorgeous specialty date products. 

The Medjool gates that are grown there in Arizona are so fantastic that they are even shipped out to the Middle East, as well as all over the rest of the world. The tour offered at Imperial Date Gardens was interesting, and not too long – which was good, because really, how much do you really need to know about dates? 

Jennifer Chong

Photography and Food

Kayla Petering

Dreamer, Wanderer, Yoga Lover

Jasmine Alley

Adventure, Couples Travel, Style



We visited the farm just after Thanksgiving. Had a couple of nice date samples in their store, and signed up for a tour the following week. The sign up sheet for the tour clearly said they needed ten people to do the tour and to call before to make sure there where enough people. We called the morning of the tour(two couples), where put on hold and then told there where not enough on the list but we should call again as the person who gave the tours sometimes gave them with less than 10. We did call again, but the tour giver was elsewhere and the woman I talked to took my phone number and said she would have him call me with a yes or no. We never got the call back.
When we were in the store we had picked out several gift boxes to send back to New England as Christmas gifts, but their charge card machine was down, our plan to take the tour and send the gifts did not work out. There are other farms who do these tours, notably across the border in Southern California, when I called , they called back, provided a great tour, and sold us a bunch of dates, good shakes too.

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Driving into Yuma, roadway signs entice motorists to try a “date shake.” There’s even a sign announcing the “World Famous Date Shake.”

No question, the date shake is the perfect treat for the desert.

And travel publications agree. The website www. calls it a “deliciously sweet and creamy concoction that is perfectly cooling in the desert sun.”

Sunset Magazine ( terms it a “can’t-miss local dish.” It makes sense, since the Yuma region is Medjool country.

Medjool dates have been around for a long time, about 5,000 years. The naturally sweet date originated in Morocco and was introduced to the Yuma area in 1944, according to the Yuma Visitors Bureau.

The Yuma and Bard Valley, Calif., areas are now the world’s largest producers of Medjool dates.

According to a history posted on the Bard Date Company’s website, the Medjools were imported from French Morocco in 1927 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“To be sure that they harbored no disease the palms were isolated in Nevada. Finally, in 1948 some of the offshoots were planted in the Bard Valley across the river from Yuma,” notes the website.

Gus Nuñez’s family has been growing Medjool dates in the Bard Valley since his father, Isabel Nuñez, bought his first 10-acre date farm in 1972 and later purchased the Imperial Date Gardens. The family now has 4,000 acres, with dates growing on 3,000 of those acres.

date-shakesAlthough Nuñez is not sure who invented the date shake, he jokes that Imperial Date Gardens perfected it.

“The real secret is using hard ice cream,” he revealed in a 2010 Yuma Sun Business Direct story.

While most are made with vanilla ice cream and chopped-up dates, there are endless variations, like the almond and banana date shake made with almond milk; the cinnamon date shake; the raw vegan coconut date shake; the chocolate date shake made with chocolate syrup; the chocolate chip date shake made with chocolate chip ice cream; and the orange date shake made with orange juice.

A Web search will turn up many more variations. Try it!

However, the family-owned Martha’s Garden Medjool Date Farm also makes an award-winning date shake. The farm’s shake took top honors in last year’s first Yuma Medjool Date Festival.

Dates Milkshake - Dessert

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Arizona Dates and Shakes

Visiting date farms and sampling date shakes in the Yuma Arizona area

You may not know that dates are one of the things the area around Yuma, Arizona is known for. I learned this shortly before visiting Yuma. Seeing a date farm and tasting a date shake become items on my to-do list.

Dates may be the oldest cultivated fruit, with cultivation dating back thousands of years. Dates are a high energy food. Although they contain significant amounts of fruit sugar, they are nutrient rich and full of fibre. Of the 3,000 varieties of dates, Medjool dates are considered the “king of dates”, prized for their large size, sweet taste and juicy flesh. Originating in Morocco, Medjool dates were once reserved for royalty and dignitaries.

Dates from Yuma, Arizona

In the 1920s, disease devastated the Medjool date in Morocco. In an effort to save the variety, 11 date palms were given to the United States. They were placed in quarantine to ensure they did not harbour the disease. Several years later the palms and their offshoots were released from quarantine and subsequent offshoots provided to growers. Thus began a date-growing industry in the United States. Today, the Bard Valley in southeastern California is the largest producer of dates in the U.S. Across the Colorado River to the east, the industry is growing in the Yuma, Arizona region and may one day surpass production of Bard Valley.

Date clusters at Dateland near Yuma, Arizona

Date clusters

Date farming is labour intensive. The growing season is six months long, beginning in spring. Dates are hand-pollinated to ensure greater yields. Around the beginning of August dates are covered with white muslin bags to protect against birds and insects. The bags also catch dates that ripen before harvest begins. Soft dates, such as Medjool dates, are individually hand-picked, not gathered in clusters.

Muslin bags to protect dates

Muslin bags to protect dates

For many people making trips from the Phoenix area to Yuma or on to Las Algondones, Mexico Dateland Date Gardens is a ritual stop along the way. It is located 67 miles east of Yuma on Interstate 8. There is a store and restaurant on site. The store contains a variety of dates and date products including a number of sauces, such as HP date sauce, and date butter, and assorted gift items. I had a date shake at Dateland Gardens. It was all right, but a little too sweet for my liking. I preferred the date shake at Martha’s Gardens Date Farm, which is located on the outskirts of Yuma. Check their website for directions. (Do not be alarmed if the directions include 8 1/2 Avenue. The street numbering system in the area is a bit unusual.) The store at Martha’s also contains a variety of date products as well as regional honey, salsas, baking mixes and other goodies.

Date shake from Martha's Garden Date Farm in Yuma, Arizona

Date shake

Date shakes are thick and filling. Recipes vary. Some may include ice cream, others just ice cubes and milk. Cinnamon or nutmeg may be added. Medjool dates are the best dates for shakes. Skins of other types of dates can be too thick to blend well.

Display at Martha's Gardens Date Farm store in Yuma, Arizona

Display at Martha’s Gardens Date Farm store

Signs posted at both Dateland Gardens and Martha’s Gardens Date Farm provide information about dates. Dates vary in size and quality. Dates keep for a couple of weeks at room temperature, a couple of months in the refrigerator and several months in the freezer.

Patio area at Martha's Gardens Date Farm in Yuma Arizona

Patio area at Martha’s Gardens overlook date palms

Date palms at Martha's Gardens Date Farm

Date palms at Martha’s Gardens Date Farm

Date varieties other than Medjool are also grown in the area. Martha’s Gardens Date Farms grows four other varieties:

  • Dayri, originating from Basra, Iraq, is a medium sweet date which ripens from red to black
  • Halawy, originating in northern Iraq, is soft and golden brown when ripe with a medium to high level of sweetness
  • Khadrawy, originating in Basra, Iraq, is a soft date with a reddish-brown colour when ripe
  • Zahidi, originating in northern Iraq, is a yellow or straw-coloured date with a mild sweetness

PIN ITVisiting date farms and sampling date shakes in the Yuma Arizona area #Arizona #Yuma #dates

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Shake yuma date

Yuma for foodies: Date shakes, Lettuce Days and farm tours

Yuma Visitors Bureau created the Field to Feast tours in 2011 in partnership with the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.

The date shake is a mystery to me. I have no idea how such a concoction can be so knee-buckling delicious.

I like dates — a plump, succulent and healthy little fruit — but they're not a flavor that leaps to mind when I crave dessert. My sweet tooth snarls for something decadent. Yet, when I'm in Yuma, I turn my back on chocolate, fudge, caramel and their ilk. I prowl instead for date shakes.

The date shake is said to have originated in the California desert, created by Russ Nichol at his roadside stand in the Coachella Valley during the 1930s. As groves of date palms have spread across the southwestern corner of Arizona, the thick, creamy shakes have become a signature treat in the region.

Yuma is one of the world's largest producers of Medjool dates — sweet treats that are fat-free and high in fiber, potassium and antioxidants. Medjools are 21/2 times the size of other dates but with the same small pit. When blended with ice cream, they make a heavenly milkshake.

My favorite Yuma date shake is at Martha's Gardens Date Farm. They use real vanilla ice cream and handmade date paste for a blend that's smooth and rich, with a lingering note of honey flavor.

The sprawling family farm encompasses 8,000 trees spread over 100 acres. The shakes are made in a cafe that serves sandwiches, soups, salads and a bevy of date-infused treats, including date bread and coconut-date macaroons. Date shakes cost $3.99.

While you're there, take one of the tours, offered at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays (as long as at least 10 people are game to go). The informative outing takes you riding through the rows of palms with their stubbled trunks and crescendo of fronds. The 90-minute tour costs $10.

Details: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays from October through May. 9747 S. Avenue 9 3/4E, Yuma. 928-726-8831,

You can find another great shake about 60 miles east of Yuma at Dateland. Sitting at Exit 67 off Interstate 8 and flanked by acres of palm trees, the oasis is a welcome rest stop on your way to or from California.

Inside you'll find a Quiznos, a snack-laden market and a gift shop selling packaged dates grown a few yards from where you're standing. The shakes are made with soft-serve ice cream. They're thick enough to collapse the straw, and a swirl of chewy bits of date skin adds a little extra zest. Shakes cost $4.50, and you can add additional flavors for 60 cents each. Bakery items include date pecan pie, date muffins and date banana bread.

Details: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. 928-454-2772,

Yuma continues to surprise me in the best possible ways. The city has made one good decision after another in recent years. It started by beautifying its riverfront, a massive undertaking. It spruced up two state parks and revitalized its historical downtown. And after reconnecting with its agricultural roots, the city has emerged as a destination for food lovers. Weird as it would have seemed a decade ago, I go to Yuma to eat.

If you've munched a salad recently, the ingredients were likely grown in Yuma. More than 90 percent of leafy vegetables consumed in this country from November through March come from Yuma. With more people wanting to know the origin of their food, the Yuma Convention & Visitors Bureau has developed agritourism outings.

The first of these were the Field to Feast tours, begun in 2011 in partnership with the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. The tours proved so popular that more have been added each year. Field to Feast tours gives participants a chance to harvest fresh produce and eat a meal created from it just a couple of hours later. In between the field and the feast, visitors get a peek behind the scenes of Yuma's multibillion-dollar agricultural industry.

Tours cost $45 and include lunch and produce to take home. This year's dates are Jan. 14, 15, 21, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29 and 31; Feb. 4, 5, 7, 11, 12, 18, 19 and 21; and March 4 and 5.

If you're only interested in the end result of the agricultural cycle, Savor Yuma tours are for you. These gastronomic adventures are progressive dinners in which participants shuttle from one eatery to the next, experiencing everything from food trucks to fine dining. Diners are transported by bus and visit three restaurants.

Savor Yuma tours cost $50 and include transportation, food and two coupons for alcoholic beverages. Dates are Jan. 21, Feb. 3 and 18 and March 3 and 11.

Yuma's newest agritourism offering is the Date Night dinner. Chef Alex Trujillo whips up multicourse gourmet meals featuring dates in savory and sweet dishes. Each dinner has a different menu and theme and takes place in a date grove under a canopy of stars.

Tickets cost $65 and include dinner and transportation to and from the venue. Dates are Jan. 16, Feb. 13 and March 13.

Details: Reserve a spot at any of these events by calling 800-293-0071. Go to for more information.

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2 more Yuma food events

German Fest on Madison: Das Bratwurst Haus has been open since October 2009, dishing up authentic German cuisine in a homey beer-garden setting. The restaurant puts on a rollicking street fair each January with plenty of food, beer and live music. It's Oktoberfest, pushed back a few months to take advantage of Yuma's idyllic winter weather. Performers include an accordion band, a tribute to Elvis and alpine dancers.

Details: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17. Along Madison Avenue downtown. Free. 928-329-4777,

Yuma Lettuce Days: Yuma finishes its agritourism season with a green bang. Lettuce Days celebrates the city's role as the winter vegetable capital of the nation. The annual event has grown so popular that this spring it moves to a larger venue at the University of Arizona's Yuma Agricultural Center, a research farm just west of downtown. Hosea Rosenberg, winner of Season 5 of Bravo's "Top Chef," headlines the event. He'll do cooking demonstrations and offer samples to audience members. Other activities include recipe contests, product demos, a tasting event featuring local specialties, a giant salad bar, ice carvers and a farmers market. There also will be live music, a beer garden and a petting zoo.

Details: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, March 1. $5 per day. 6425 W. Eighth St.

Dates Milkshake - Dessert

World Famous Date Shakes in Dateland, Arizona

"The recipe for this desert treat is simple: Fresh Medjool dates are boiled then smashed and blended with vanilla ice cream."

Giant billboards herald "World Famous Date Shakes" for more than 60 miles along a lonely Interstate 8 between Yuma and Gila Bend, Arizona.

Perhaps the oldest cultivated fruit in the world, the date palm thrives in the hot, dry Arizona climate. Date shakes have been served here since the 1920s, when the old U.S. Highway 80 ran through town.

The unincorporated community of Dateland—once a training ground for General Patton's troops—was purchased in 1995 by Roland and Charna Walker from Alberta, Canada. In addition to their world famous shakes, the tiny (but arguably the cleanest) rest stop in Arizona now sells date cookies, date ice cream and date cream pie.

On a recent, cool March morning, I heeded the billboards' calls and pulled off at exit 67.


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