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It's a date: Festival focuses on 'nature's candy'

October 29, 2010

November 06, 2010
10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Zaher Hajo grew up eating dates in Syria. And so when he moved to New Jersey in 1984, he missed eating the sweet fruit.

Then he decided to relocate somewhere where he could grow date palms, and that turned out to be Arizona.

Hajo now is one of the volunteers at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus date grove, which will be the site of the inaugural Date Festival, sponsored by The Arboretum at ASU, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Nov. 6. The campus is located at 7001 E. Williams Field Road, Mesa.

The free festival will include tasting of more than 20 varieties of fresh dates; food made with dates and Moroccan coffee for sale; Moroccan music; and tours at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Scott Frische, a noted date-palm expert, will give a talk on date palm care and varieties at noon. Dates right off the tree and pre-packaged ASU dates, which Hajo calls “natural candy,” also will be for sale.

The Arboretum at ASU maintains a date grove at the Polytechnic campus that includes 138 trees that produce nearly 50 varieties of dates, such as Black Abada, Haziz, Medjool, Honey, Tabarzal, Black Sphinx, Tadala, Fard, Thoory and Maktoom.

The grove also contains some rare dates, such as the Badrayah. In fact, said Deborah Thirkhill, program coordinator for the Arboretum, ASU has the only young palm of its kind that still has an offshoot in the country. Frische recently removed its second to the last offshoot and moved it to the USDA date palm germplasm in California for safekeeping.

Another rare date at ASU is the Peggy Ann, which was developed in Brawley, Calif., in 1911.

For more information about the festival, or volunteering at The Arboretum at ASU, contact Thirkhill at (480) 268-4165 or