He told me that he had a degree in forestry from the University of Florida, and that he had planted this date palm when he had first purchased the house in 1988. Since then it had withstood tropical storms, hurricanes, and even getting hit by cars. The tree didn't always fruit, but because it had been so hot and dry this summer (date palms have a very high heat requirement to fruit), the tree had really put out a spectacular looking crop. Unfortunately, they didn't taste as good as they looked. I bit into one, and was shocked to find the fruit was just as astringent as an unripe persimmon!
The homeowner told me that the fruit this year were hollow with poorly developed seeds, and that he had never got any edible fruit from the tree anyway. I'm sure there must be a way to process the fruits to remove the astringency, but I haven't found it yet. According to the University of Florida, drying naturally removes all astringency in persimmons, so I may try drying some of the dates to see if that does the trick.
On a side note, in a previous post I had asked if anyone knew of a fruiting avocado tree north of I-10, and I received no responses. Well, right behind the date palm I noticed an avocado tree growing back from the roots. The homeowner told me that the tree had been quite large, and had produced fruit sporadically, but that it had been killed to the ground this past winter. He said that he and his wife had grown the tree from a seed they got from a grocery store avocado, which almost certainly means it was a Hass. The new trunk looked very healthy, and was almost six feet tall. The old trunk was almost 6-inches in diameter, and I really wish I had been able to see it before it was killed back.