Shields Date Garden: Prolific Palm Trees Yield Sweet Products

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Farm Sign Palm Springs

A gallant knight points the way toward a delicious Palm Springs institution.

A shield isn’t much use without a knight to wield it. This towering knight stands alongside Highway 111, pointing the way to Shields Date Garden, which has been supplying the Coachella Valley with dates since 1924. Floyd and Bess Shields and their descendants ran the date garden until 2005, when the operation was sold to Jewel Date Company. Thankfully, Shields has maintained its charm.

Dates Palm Springs

Towering date palm groves surround the company store. Floyd Shields imported his first date palm from Algeria. Today, Shields produces a startling 119 date varieties.

Dates Palm Springs

Clusters of dates were still on the palm. The top of each tree is equipped with a ladder, allowing for easier harvesting.

Dates Palm Springs

The company store’s exterior isn’t dazzling, but the phenomenal bounty of desert fruits within is beyond impressive. In addition to dates, Shields also grows grapefruit, figs and more.

Dates Palm Springs

Expect friendly Shields employees to offer free date samples, including Abbada, Deglet Noor, Medjool, Empress and Honey, each with a unique hue and flavor profile. The color spectrum runs from honey colored (Honey) to black (Abbada).

Dates Palm Springs

Shields dates are special on their own, and the company incorporates them into delicious baked goods, including cookies, brownies, bars and cakes. They’re even stuffed with nuts and dipped in chocolate.

Dates Palm Springs

The spacious store features row upon row of packaged dates, including bulk quantities of single varieties and numerous combination packs.

Popular choices include Medjool – “the king of dates” – imported from Morocco in the 1930s. Deglet Noor means “date of light,” due to its amber hue and emigrated from Algeria. Blondes and brunettes are available only at Shields Date Garden. Bread dates are popular with athletes since they’re not sticky and can be kept in pockets. It was a mind-bending process to choose even two combination packs.

In addition to dates and date products, Shields sells date cookbooks, date mugs, and date T-shirts with sayings like “Do you need a date for Saturday night?” Somehow, it’s not kitschy. Well, maybe the T-shirts.

Soda Fountain Palm Springs

As if there weren’t enough date options, Shields also offers an old time soda fountain, where it’s possible to order a date shake or scoop of date ice cream. Shields’ other big seller is grapefruit, so they sell fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice by the glass.

Milkshake Palm Springs

The rich date shake ($3.50) combines vanilla milk and Shields date crystals, which are made from blonde and Deglet dates, then turned into a paste to serve as the shake base.

Dates Palm Springs

Date crystals are a key ingredient in date shakes and baked goods like the date bar.

Dates Palms Springs

The Black & Gold Date Sampler ($5.25) features Empress and Abbada Dates, plus Coconut Confections: dates rolled in shredded coconut and topped with a single almond.

Dates Palm Springs

Another edible souvenir paired Deglet Noor & Brunette Medjool Dates with a single Coconut Confection ($3).

Dates Palm Springs

I couldn’t leave with just dates and confections. I also bought a walnut-studded date cake ($2.50) and chewy date cookies (3 for $1.50).

The sticky date bar oozed with date paste and brown sugar, and the pastry sandwich was lined with oats.

Don’t leave Shields without stopping into the 108 seat movie theatre to view “Romance & Sex Life of the Date.” When Floyd Shields was still alive, he used to regale visitors with the story of date mating, but grew tired of repeating the tale, so he recorded a 15 minute film. That film is still shown to this day, and it features hokey narration but great information. Some fun facts about date farming: 1) It can take 20 years or more to see a return on a date palm. 2) Date farming is labor-intensive and requires pollination by hand, to assist in the specie’s success. 3) Shields uses a ratio of one male date palm to 48 female date palms. 4) Finally, dates are high in potassium and carbs, and fat free.

The trip to Shields was a rousing success. Not only did I manage to sample a variety of delicious dates and date products, but I carried away a full bag of date goodies. Plus, that movie was classic. I can see why Shields has survived for over 80 years. May it thrive for another 80.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Those overalls are amazing! I’m obsessed!Paige

I have been to Shield’s for a date shake and have found it to be great. There is a movie on the sex life of a date that is as boring as the sex life of a date, but it is educational and worth seeing at least once. I found the employees to be cordial and helpful.

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