Campus date harvest, sales come to Tempe, Polytechnic campuses

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Every Saturday in October, volunteers cut down, wash, sort and sell dates: a sweet treat that grows on two Arizona State University campuses. The Polytechnic campus date grove cultivates 40 varieties, the largest known public collection.

Sustainability graduate student Zoë Stein said not many students know that ASU harvests rare dates. ASU grows and sells rare and sometimes expensive dates, some of which are only widely available in the Middle East.

“A few of the species of dates that we grow here only grow in Iran,” she said. “And we have some on campus, which is crazy. This (harvest) is my favorite thing in the fall. When I studied abroad in Denmark, I was heartbroken to miss this event.”

Stein said she had taken home dates after volunteering. 

“Dates are pretty expensive, so I get to do some baking that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to do on my student budget,” Stein added.

Polytechnic harvest and sale

Students are invited to volunteer for the Polytechnic campus harvest via Changemaker Central @ ASU or online. The volunteers collaborate with Grounds Services on both campuses. Deborah Thirkhill, campus harvest program coordinator, said the harvest provides students with a unique volunteer opportunity.

“You get to taste the dates, and you’re exposed to different varieties that way,” she said. “We’re going to harvest about 3,500 pounds (of dates) from about 138 date palms.”

ASU date harvest cleaning

ASU date harvest cleaning.

After the Polytechnic campus harvest, a roadside stand opens to the public at 11 a.m. Twenty date varieties will be for sale at $4 to $5 per pound. Unlike previous years, the dates only will be sold at this roadside stand.

Polytechnic campus students began dates’ the circle of life when they identified, harvested and hand-pollinated date flowers. The process began in April 2016.

“Students learned about the rich history, cultivation and harvest of an ancient arid land crop,” Cynthia James-Richman, an Applied Biological Sciences/Sustainable Horticulture instructional professional said. “Students now appreciate the date germplasm bank’s role at the Polytechnic campus.”

Tempe campus date sale

Every Friday in October, Medjool and Hayany dates will be on sale from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for around $4 per pound on Cady Mall. Students may volunteer to sell the dates harvested from about 80 Tempe campus palms.

If you can’t attend the post-harvest festivities, the dates are a featured ingredient in fall dining hall dishes, Thirkhill said.