Date and Peanut Paste

A popular option in the 1920s.

Dates have been cultivated in the Middle East since at least 4,000 B.C., and Jesuit missionaries first planted date palms in California in 1769. But the amount consumed really spiked after Paul and Wilson Popenoe transplanted 16,000 date palms from Iraq to California in 1912 and 1913 to support their father’s nursery, which at the time had been primarily interested in avocado cultivation.

(Wilson, the younger brother, returned to avocados and made a name for himself as an expeditionary horticulturalist, particularly in South America. Paul was an early contributor to the field of marriage counseling, dabbling with eugenics-based theories until abandoning them around World War II.)

As the plants spread through the Coachella valley, the cost of dates (which previously had to be imported from the “date-groves of the Orient” as the ad suggests) went down, and people experimented with different applications.

An interesting quirk about date palms is that the trees are either male or female and neither birds or insects are attracted to the flowers. Hypothetically, the wind could do the job, but if you’re inclined to plant a dense grove, you’re going to have to climb them and do it by hand. Until 1973, this job was done entirely by hand; now, the pollen is harvested by hand, then sprayed mechanically on the trees (with or without pesticides).

This recipe appeared in the November 13, 1924 edition of the San Antonio Light:

Date and Peanut Paste

1 cup stoned dates
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
Wash and dry dates; put though food chopper; add peanut butter and salt. Mix and roll into small balls; then cover with sugar. Lay on plate to dry.


A little more detail is provided in the copy from the January 18, 1928 edition of the Xenia, Ohio Evening Gazette:

Date and Peanut Paste
(Mrs. Mary Morton’s Daily Tested Recipe)

Two cups stoned dates, one-half cup peanut butter, one-fourth cup confectioners sugar, one-half teaspoon salt. Put dates through food chopper, add peanut butter and salt and work into paste. Roll into small balls, then cover with sugar and lay on plate to dry. The dates and peanut butter contain lime, iron and phosphorous, and the peanut butter also has vitamins A and B. This can be given to the older children in place of candy, and may be used as dessert. It should not be eaten by those who want to reduce.


A sandwich with a similar flavor profile appeared in the July 10, 1921 edition of the New York Tribune:

Sweet Sandwiches

Among the unusual sweet sandwiches are combinations of chopped dates and peanut butter (mixed to a paste by creaming the peanut butter with a little water or milk), Canton preserved ginger or marrons, drained and sliced thin, or combine the Canton ginger with peanut butter and shredded lettuce.


From the box of A.D. from Lutz, Florida, by way of Pennsylvania in the 1940s, and originating in Ohio in the 1920s.

Date and Peanut Paste

1 c. stoned dates
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. confectioners sugar

Wash and dry dates put through food chopper. Add peanut butter and salt. Mix and roll into small balls; then cover with sugar. Lay on plate to dry.

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