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The best dates — and where to find them

Clear packages of dates for sale.
Dates for sale at Windmill Market in North Palm Springs.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

If you’re in the mood for dates, your first stop might be a farmers market, where several fresh, in-season date varieties are now available. You’ll find the longstanding vendor Flying Disc Ranch at the Santa Monica Wednesday market. The Bautista Family Organic Date Ranch has a presence on Sundays at the Hollywood farmers market. And Joan Smith of Rancho Meladuco has her own bricks-and-mortar store in Newport Beach with an easy-to-remember name: the Date Shop.

Yearning for a road trip? The best time to go to the Coachella Valley is October to December, when the freshest dates are available and the desert’s temperatures start to calm down.

Smooth, sweet shakes, tart lemon bars, crunchy slaw and an aromatic chicken braise — these are just a few of the wonderful recipes utilizing the unique sweetness of dates.

Sam Cobb Farms has a market and offers tours in Desert Hot Springs. At Shield’s Date Garden in Indio, you can tour the gardens to sit in an 1950s-era theater and watch a short documentary titled “The Romance and Sex Life of the Date.”

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Oasis Date Gardens — a century-plus-old date ranch in Thermal, which received one of the first allotments of Medjool offshoots from Morocco — has a store, a tasting room and a cafe, where a slice of the moist, rich date-and-walnut-laden cake may inspire you to bake with the fruit at home.

And at Windmill Market in North Palm Springs, Lee Cohen offers an icon in the desert: the date shake. It’s a sweet balance of flavors with just three ingredients: milk, ice cream and, of course, dates.

Dates are widely available at all kinds of markets and grocery stores in the area as well.

Where to find dates

The Date Shop, (888) 635-2382, ranchomeladuco.com

Sam Cobb Farms, (760) 861-1664, samcobbfarms.com

Shield’s Date Garden, (760) 347-0996, shieldsdategarden.com

Oasis Date Gardens, (760) 398-9354, oasisdate.com

Windmill Market, (760) 251-4489


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