Shields Date Gardens - Indio
Posting this just to remind folks that a delightful jaunt while visiting the Palm Springs and Palm Desert areas is a trip to Shields Date Gardens. Tourist season is just beginning and the drive is lovely up Hwy. 111. Much, much more date oriented than Hadleys, which serves an inferior date shake out of an soft serve machine. Date shakes at Shields($3.75) are hand blended, they do use date crystals, but it was delicious and suprisingly not overly sweet. I have spent many days hunting Dove with my father in the agricultural areas of Thermal, Coachella and Indio. There used to be date gardens all over the valley, and we visited them all to find and compare to find the best date shake. I only know of Shields and Oasis date gardens which are open now, and next trip I will try Oasis. Shields also has all available varieties of dates for tasting, 12 to 15 kinds. Right now the date harvest is just starting, so only a few varieties are the new crop. We tried quite a few kinds, but found our favorite, Honey dates, still has the most date flavor(think grade B maple syrup). Tried Abbada dates, truly black in color and rich in flavor, had to get a pound($5) and a pound of Honey dates($5) even though they were 2008 harvest. They also had about 10 varieties of local honeys,we bought a bear full of Tamarisk honey($4), a desert tree/bush that I have not seen honey made from before, have not tried it yet. This was a worthwhile excursion.
Thank you for this update as I had long ago gotten turned off by Hadley's but am now intrigued again to savor this under-appreciated treat. There is nothing better than dates stuffed with walnuts in my book. This is one travel treat that gets full recognition in the United Arab Republic where shopping malls have multi-variety date displays, like we sell 31 flavors of ice cream.
I too, love a date farm. My favorite is Dateland off the Dateland exit between Yuma and Gila Bend on interstate 8. But something bad happened a year ago- the diner that used to be there served classic tuna sandwiches, decent burgers and nice date shakes. It was a perfectly-preserved 1950's throwback...something about the arid environment preserved it. On one of my last trips, they had shuttered the diner and rebuilt the whole thing to include the giftshop and diner under one roof. Just not the same. But the dates are still great.
This place is a hoot! Great date shakes and quite an assortment of candies, nuts, and dried fruit. The best thing, tho, is the theater with the old time movie projector showing "The Sex Life of the Date"! The whole experience is defintely worth the trip.