While we were attending a Heartland rally in Pahrump Nevada in October. On one of our “non-event” days we decided to take a day trip out to Tecopa, California to visit the China Ranch Date Farm. It was just across the Nevada/California state line amidst the Mojave Desert which was only about 40 miles from our RV park. As you are driving on California Highway 127 from Pahrump you come upon Death Valley.
This part of California has had recorded atmospheric temperatures as high as 134 degrees, which is the hottest ever recorded on the earth. Tecopa California is only a 1-hour drive from Death Valley so you are asking yourself how can a farm exist in these climates, much less thrive! Well after our visit and talking with the owner of the farm we realized that it was actually the perfect environment for this type of crop.
This ranch has quite a bit of History. The historic Tonopah & Tidewater railroad http://tandtrr.org/ which was a subsidiary of the Pacific Coast Borax Company and the Old Spanish Trail http://www.oldspanishtrail.org/ which was a historic trade route from northern New Mexico and California, are both within walking distance to the ranch. Even though the railroad became inactive in 1939, the section of the ranch is for hiking only so it is still intact.
There are abandoned Gypsum mines to see and lots of relaxing trails to explore, so the area is just full of great history.
Records show that a Chinese man named Ah Foo came to the canyon after working in the Death Valley borax mines. He supplied fruits, vegetables and meat for the areas mining camps. It was then called Chinaman’s Ranch. Ah Foo lost his ranch in 1900 to a gunslinger named Morrison who eventually sold it. It has been bought and sold many times and has not always been a date ranch. It was a fig farm for a while and a cattle ranch, but then it was bought by the children of state Senator Charles Brown in 1970 and it is still in that family today.
Dates are a native crop to North Africa and Arabia so they love the dry, hot climate. They are a product of the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) and yields about 60 million or so pounds of fruit annually.
They are sodium, fat, and cholesterol-free, and a good source of fiber, all of which are important in reducing the risk of both heart disease and cancer. One date is 23 calories and about a 1/4 cup of chopped dates or 5-6 is what the National Cancer Institue considers one serving.
You need a male tree to pollinate 40-50 female trees. When the fruit is green they are draped in cloth to protect them from birds and weather until they are ripe.
From September to December as the fruit from the trees ripen they are harvested. Each adult tree can produce 200-300 pounds of fruit each season. That’s a lot of dates.
We sampled all the different varieties in the store and even tried the famous date shake. Yummy!! Some dates are good for cutting up for recipes and others are good for just popping in your mouth for a sweet treat anytime. They also have a gift shop to wander in with some great antiques, beautiful clothes and lots of gift packs of date.
After we went to the store we wandered around on the ranch among the trees (suggested by the employees). It is quite a beautiful ranch with date palms as far as the eye could see. Once the plants are mature there really isn’t a lot to do on a regular basis except make sure they are receiving enough water and some pruning until it is harvest time. That’s when the action starts.
If you are going to be in the Pahrump, Nevada it is a well worth drive out to the ranch. It truly is something to see.