Desert: Hot Date

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Illustrations by Roger Hall

Heading into the Coachella Valley, you have no choice but to pay homage to the date palm and its sweet fruit. The tree probably originated in North Africa and loves the heat and soil of the valley, which produces 95 percent of the dates sold in the United States. Among the different varieties of dates, the mahogany-colored Medjool is considered king, and it demands a royal ransom: $6 to $12 for a pound of primo grade-A, aka U.S. Fancy (a title bestowed by the USDA on dates that are nearest to perfect). Even if you don’t like your fruit mushy and brown, the date shake is a whole other thing: It may be the coldest, thickest, sweetest refreshment you’ll ever have—the ideal accompaniment when scanning the broad desert horizon.