While most people are familiar with the Medjool date, which is the most common variety grown commercially in the U.S. but may be unaware that there are hundreds of different varieties growing worldwide.
Now, Sphinx Date Co. Palm & Pantry has once again partnered with Arizona State University’s (ASU) Polytechnic’s Date Palm Germplasm—which grows and harvests exclusive and hard-to-find dates on its Mesa campus and had collected many of the varieties that grew in the Phoenix area prior to the popularization of Medjool dates—to bring rare varieties to market. As a result of this partnership, Sphinx Date Co. will be selling the specialty varieties of dates that are not commonly grown in commercial groves.
“This partnership serves as a crucial way for us to educate our customers on the significance of dates to Arizona’s economy as well as their place in Phoenix history,” says Rebecca Seitz, co-owner of Sphinx Date Co. “Being a part of the university, the ASU grove is not only educating the community and students on dates, but also preserving these less common types for future generations.”
Many of the varieties Sphinx will have available from ASU are considered “soft dates” that grew prior to the proliferation of Medjools in the U.S. from about 1900 to 1940s. Soft dates require much more delicate harvesting and are more prone to perishability, making them unfavorable to commercial farmers.
This is the second time Sphinx Date Co. and ASU have come together for this partnership. Originally, they debuted this program in 2021. Seitz, an ASU alumnus, works directly with Professor Deborah Thirkhill, who oversees the ASU Date Palm Germplasm to develop more interest in dates and bring these specialty varieties to market. Thirkhill coordinates all the volunteers within the program and keeps the dates growing and harvested.
As the harvest takes place, Seitz expects to receive the following varieties grown at the ASU Polytechnic campus:
- Amir Hajj
- ASU cultivar (discovered at ASU)
- Abbad/Medjool hybrid
Sphinx Date Co. will sell these varieties as they get them with the harvest. The dates will be available in limited quantities and Seitz expects them to sell out quickly. Updates on the varieties available at Sphinx will be updated via the company’s website and social media pages.
The ASU Polytechnic campus is home to a rare assortment of 140 date palm trees, the largest date palm collection of any public garden in the U.S. Featuring more than 50 varieties, volunteers are largely responsible for the trimming, pollinating, bagging, and harvesting of the trees.
Dates will be available while they last at Sphinx Date Co. Palm and Pantry, as well as online. As new varieties arrive, Seitz will be offering samples of the various types, as well as selling variety packs that include an array of the different varieties available at that time.
Sphinx Date Co. Palm & Pantry, 3039 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale