Since ancient times Elche has the biggest palm grove in Europe, with about 200.000 date palm trees (Phoenix dactylifera), the only one with edible dates among a large number of palm species.
It may be thought that here there is a huge date trade, but it isn´t, as result of high costs (e.g. dates should be handpicked climbing at the treetop / in each bunch, date ripening not occur at the same time / fruit characteristics is very heterogeneous).
The more usual presentation in greengroces are dried dates and candied dates, because they don´t need special storage conditions and their commercial life is very long. Nevertheless, to taste the difference between dried or candied with the fresh dates, is so big as with a grape and a raisin.
Fresh dates aren´t easy to buy away from producers areas, because they have a short commercial life (around 5-7 days). With less calories than dried and candied dates, are really a delight, sweet, pulpy, and its colour varies from amber to dark brown. Their characteristics range depending of the ripening state, as in other fruits. The crop is in autumm and winter, and it´s worth to taste Elche fresh dates if you are here in these seasons. It´s usual to find also defrosted dates, but they aren´t so tasty as fresh ones.
|"Medjoul variety " fresh dates, by Datelx courtesy.|
Studies promoted some years ago by Elche City Council and an Institute for Agricultural Research, finished delivering selected palm trees to Elche farmers, and with a patented post-harvest handling that allows to improve fresh date commercialization. A farmer´s cooperative of this selected palm trees, called “Datelx” (firstname.lastname@example.org), is using this technique and selling now the first crops, really with a very high quality and size. Other places to buy Elche fresh dates are Municipal Markets, Street Markets, Porta de la Morera Street 25, Porta de la Morera Street 49 (inside Huerto del Cura Garden, Plaza Rey Jaime 2, and in http://www.todopalmera.com