Coachella Valley farmer Sam Cobb.
PHOTO BY BRANDON HARMAN
The Sierra Nevadas have giant sequoias. The High Desert has spindly Joshua trees. Greater Palm Springs, of course, contains miles and miles of swaying palm trees. Immerse in the greenery at these destinations that cultivate, preserve, and educate the public about date palms and other agricultural crops.
WHERE TO: SPEND THE DAY
Shields Date Garden
It’s easy to spend a few hours at Shields Date Garden wandering the palm groves and garden pathways, which wind around a picturesque lake and through a series of curious statues depicting biblical scenes. When hunger strikes, order brunch on the café’s expansive patio. Then, check out a cheeky yet informative documentary called The Romance & Sex Life of the Date that’s been playing on a loop in the theater since 1953. On your way out, stop by the gift shop and take a tub of dates and a treat to go — you can’t visit Shields without ordering the famously decadent date shake.
WHERE TO: MEET A FARMER
Sam Cobb Farms
Desert Hot Springs
“I’ve wanted to be a farmer my whole life. Nothing more, nothing less,” says Sam Cobb, the passionate family man behind Sam Cobb Farms, located in unincorporated Sky Valley, near Desert Hot Springs. With two degrees in agriculture and three decades working for the United States Department of Agriculture under his belt, as Cobb neared “retirement,” he planted 5 acres with date palms, including medjools, barhis, and black gold. (The latter is a unique variety that Cobb developed.) “Our goal is to get our great-tasting dates into the hands of as many people as possible,” he says. Cobb loves to host walking tours for guests that inform on plant science and the life cycle of dates. “People seem to appreciate hearing the story. I mean, really finding out where dates come from, from a person who can explain it.” Seasonally on Saturdays and Sundays, Cobb sets up an outdoor market, where you can purchase his dates; he expects to remain open through mid-April. Tours can be booked through the website.
Sam Cobb owns and operates his namesake farm, working with his wife and nephew.
PHOTO BY BRANDON HARMAN
WHERE TO: GET PRODUCE
Operated by the Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians, Temalpakh Farm features a market selling fresh-picked vegetables, herbs, and dates, as well as smoothies. “One of my favorites is the Palm Tree Brew, a smoothie made of dates that also has some cold coffee in it,” says Tribal Chairperson Amanda Vance. “We buy our coffee from a tribe out in Yuma. We try and support other tribes when they’re doing food or products that we can put in the store.” After browsing the market, visitors can stroll through the blooming pollination corridor, around a pond, and then hike a short distance up Seven Feathers Mountain for a view of the entire farm. Guided tours are available if booked in advance, and groups of 10 or more can reserve a private dining experience that’s truly farm-to-table — served on the farm, under the stars. Farm boxes are available to order online for pickup at Temalpakh or at Chef Tanya’s Kitchen locations in Palm Desert and Palm Springs.
WHERE TO: FIND EXOTICS
Oasis Date Gardens
Sprawling across 175 acres in Thermal, Oasis Date Gardens cultivates 20 date varieties that are harvested throughout the year. The on-site Ranch Store vends them all in bulk, including exotic options you’ve likely never heard of, along with snacks and baked goods. (Try the date cake, made with an almost-century-old recipe.) Locals love the date shakes, customizable with a plethora of add-ins, including peanut butter, banana, chocolate, and coffee.
While most date palms were imported to the Coachella Valley, the ancient oases of the Indian Canyons are home to the only species that is native.
PHOTO BY DANIELA STALLINGER
A trail through the Indian Canyons.
PHOTO BY ANTHONY W. PURNEL, COURTESY AGUA CALIENTE BAND OF CAHUILLA INDIANS
WHERE TO: TAKE A HIKE
There are more than 3,000 palm species around the world, but only one — the California fan palm, or Washingtonia filifera — is native to the Coachella Valley. You will discover beautiful oases of ancient fan palms in this preserved area, the ancestral home of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, located just a few miles from downtown Palm Springs. Various hiking trails wander through the indigenous flora and past rock art, house pits, and other intact artifacts.
WHERE TO: LEARN MORE
If walls could talk, these would sing of the Coachella Valley’s earliest settlers. The historic complex comprises some of the area’s oldest buildings, as well as the California Date History Museum, which chronicles the date palm’s transplantation to and growth within the California desert. An outdoor gallery pays homage to the early pioneers who paved the way for life as we know it today.
- RED NEXT: The sex lives of dates.