September 30, 2021

Volunteers can sign up through Nov. 6

Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus is home to the largest date palm collection of any public garden in the country with more than 40 date palm varieties.

On Sept. 25, volunteers started harvesting this year's date crop, which has become an annual tradition at the university. 

Spots are open through Nov. 6 for interested volunteers. The dates are then sold on campus, but volunteers get to take home a bag for their hard work. 

This year, for the first time, dates will be delivered to the Sphinx Date Co. Palm & Pantry in Scottdale, Arizona.

"The owner Rebecca (Seitz) is an ASU alumna and has volunteered at the ASU date grove for years," says Deborah Thirkill, program coordinator at ASU Facilities Development and Management Grounds Services, who organizes the harvest each year. "The store is celebrating their 75-year anniversary, and they will be selling all our varieties of ASU-grown dates.  They will also ship dates to friends and family back home."

The dates go on sale at Sphinx Date Co. Palm & Pantry on Oct. 1 and will be sold from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. every Saturday in October at the Polytechnic campus, across the street from the date grove at 7115 Innovation Way South in Mesa.

man using tool to remove dates from palm tree

ASU aerospace engineering senior Will Helman cuts down a Black Sphinx date branch during the first of several volunteer events to harvest dates from the Polytechnic campus date palm germplasm on Sept. 25. The Black Sphinx date is a rare and newer date, discovered a century ago in the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix, and is often sweeter and softer than most well-known dates.

woman walking through date palm grove

Program coordinator Deb Thirkhill makes her way through the date palm grove Sept. 25.

Woman loading date branch into box

Thirkhill pulls a bunch of Black Sphinx dates to be harvested on Sept. 25.

man putting dates into box

Helman (left) helps pick and bag Black Sphinx dates while volunteering on Sept. 25.

woman holding date palm branch

ASU sustainability junior Ashley Culbertson holds up a string of Black Sphinx dates on Sept. 25.

woman picking dates off branch

Culbertson packages dates on Sept. 25 at the Polytechnic campus.

woman behind date branch

Volunteer Jenane Al-Dalal picks dates off a branch during the harvest Sept. 25.

people loading dates on to dolly

ASU alumnus Joe Shocker and volunteer Al-Dalal load dates on Sept. 25.

man cutting branch off a palm tree

Shocker cuts a branch of dates off a palm tree on Sept. 25.

women holding box of dates

From left: Program coordinator Deb Thirkhill hands off Barhi dates to Sphinx Date Co. Palm & Pantry owners Rebecca Seitz and her mother, Sharyn Seitz, following the first date harvest of the year from the Polytechnic campus date palm germplasm on Sept. 25.

Top photo: Volunteer Jenane Al-Dalal helps pick a branch of Khalasa dates, a variety that originated in Saudi Arabia, during the first of several volunteer events to harvest dates from the Polytechnic campus date palm germplasm on Sept. 25. All photos by Deanna Dent/ASU News