Harvest time is the busiest time of year at Naked Dates. The whole farm is bustling with activity during these months, as our workforce triples and there is always something to be done. Once the dates are ripe and ready, there is simply no time to waste.
When to start picking: a delicate balance
This year, picking started on August 22 and will continue until all of our fruit is brought in. It takes several rounds through the field as the fruit ripens at different rates. Unlike mass-production-style operations, we pick our dates only when they are ready and not a moment before. The flavor is so much more concentrated when we insist on this level of quality, and that is what makes Naked Dates so much more special than any other date you’ve ever had.
Harvest generally happens from mid-August to mid-October, depending on how the weather has treated us during the growing season. One of the main reasons we might delay harvest is because of rain: since we are in the desert and experience so little rain during the year, our trees and the fruit they bear soak up water very quickly when it’s available.
At the mercy of mother nature
Since we experience a Monsoon season approximately from mid-June through September, rain is always a possibility. If it does rain, it has several potential adverse effects on the fruit:
- It dilutes the sugars in the fruit and makes our dates less sweet. Not good!
- Since the date clusters are bagged during ripening, moisture could cause mold.
- Moisture promotes rot, which attracts flies, which could potentially lay eggs in the fruit – also not good!
We had one scare with the rain this year, but fortunately, the fruit dried out quickly and our crop is looking fantastic.
Sorting and grading starts in the field
Since our dates are picked at many stages, we streamline the process by sorting in the field before they are brought in. During field sorting, we remove the caps off the ends of the dates; these are the papery caps on the stem-ends of the fruit.
We determine what dates are ready to pack based on their ripeness and moisture content. If the moisture content is too high, they will get damaged too easily, so they are set aside to dry out. If the dates are too dry, they will need to be rehydrated. If the moisture content is just right and they are perfectly ripened on the tree, they are ready to pack.
Grading our organic Medjool dates
The freshly harvested dates then go through a grading process. We have a slow-moving conveyor belt that the dates pass across where they are inspected by our team, many of whom have more than 30 years of experience in quality date production. Dates are graded according to very specific criteria:
- Moisture content
- Overall quality of the date
This translates to the various grades of dates that we sell:
- Jumbo is our best quality, most premium dates. They are very large and very moist.
- Extra Fancy is better quality than your average date and has a good moisture content, but can vary in size.
- Fancy is good quality, though variable in size. Usually a drier date.
- Pitted dates are pitted by hand, and give you more dates for your money.
- Damaged dates include those that have been punctured, smashed, or otherwise damaged during the harvest/packing process.
Once the dates are picked and graded, they are ready to ship out to you, or to our wholesale clients, which include small retail outlets, distributors, and food and drink manufacturers who use them to make cashew milk, energy bars, juices, and more.
Farm Store reopens November 1
Once harvest is finished, we will look forward to reopening the farm store to welcome visitors. If you’re in the Yuma area and would like to see what we’ve got going on, we invite you to plan a visit and tour: drop us a line and let us know about your group, and we will look forward to welcoming you here to our little slice of paradise on earth!