In the early 1900s, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) sent agricultural explorers abroad to bring back exotic foods to cultivate in the United States. They began to import date palm offshoots from North Africa and the Middle East to the climatically similar desert areas in the Coachella Valley in California, which proved to be an excellent place to grow dates. In the first part of the 20th century, the Middle East was very popular in American pop culture. In 1947, the Date Festival became an annual event celebrating the correlation between California and the Middle East. However, towards the end of the century, political events (starting with the 1970s oil crisis) strained the United States’ relationship with the Middle East, and the exotic fantasies once popular fell out of fashion. The Abada date is a remnant of a time when the Coachella Valley looked to the Middle East for inspiration, and represents a debt owed by Californian agriculture to the farmers and orchardists of the Middle East, without whom this unique variety would not have developed.
In 1936, D.G. Snif discovered Abada dates growing wild in a riverbed in Brawley, California. The varietal name was created out of the first names of Snif and his wife, Abby and Dana. Most of the offshoots were then sold to a date garden near Indio, California where in 1955 eighteen Abada palms were in production. As of 2007, there were 25 producing Abada palms in three or four small, organic date gardens. The Abada fruit color goes from deep red to black as it matures, with moderate to heavy bloom lending a purplish cast as fruit matures. Considered to be an early ripening variety, the fruits’ flesh is soft and melting, with a very sweet flavor. The Abada date is one of many disappearing date varieties now established in the United States that need protection and promotion to survive.