Jujubes have a rich history, particularly in Asian cultures. For example, men in the Himalayan region take the fruit’s flowers and place them in their hats, believing their smell to attract the opposite sex. In a Chinese wedding ceremony, jujubes and walnuts were placed in the room of the newlyweds to promote fertility. Even today, Koreans use the wood to make a reed instrument, taepyeongso.
Origin of Jujube
Pinpointing jujube’s precise origin is difficult due to its extensive cultivation. However, India is a contender for the title along with Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Central China and Bangladesh.
Anil K. Gupta explains in a 2004 article in “Current Science” that jujubes were cultivated in parts of South Asia for 9,000 years. China in particular has been growing and refining the fruit for roughly 4,000 years. The country’s rich, lengthy history with the fruit may be one reason for its namesake as the “Chinese jujube.”
According to the book, “The Encyclopedia of Fruit & Nuts,” around 2,000 years ago, jujubes were brought from China to Iran, Armenia, Syria, and parts of the Mediterranean. Their arrival in the US came much later, in 1837.
2005 figures reveal that China cultivates approximately 90 percent of the world’s jujube supply.
Availability of Jujube in India
India cultivates a whopping 90 varieties of jujube, primarily grown in the north. Delhi and Uttar Pradesh are some of the busiest farming regions for jujubes.
The drought-resistant plants grow best in areas with long, hot summers. Jujube season begins in mid-October and lasts until the end of April. Several varieties come and go during this 6-month period.
Where to find Jujube in India
Jujubes appear in many produce shops throughout all parts of in India from October through April. Vendors near schools are known to hawk the fruits outside of the classrooms. Jujubes ship very well, making it easy for several cities across the country to have access to the fruit. Those in the north have better access to higher quality fruits than those living in the south.
Checking for Ripeness in Jujube
First timers often eat underripe jujubes based on its prettier appearance. When underripe, the skin is greenish-yellow, uniform, and free of marks and blemishes. At this stage, jujubes also taste their most sour and most astringent.
Ripe jujubes, on the other hand, look expired: they’re dark brown, slightly wrinkled, and can be full of marks on the skin. Other varieties look dark yellow or golden. Jujubes are also sweetest at this late point in their development, but not as crisp.
If purchasing jujubes, be sure to wait for them to ripen before consuming. The fruits should shed their green color and turn brown or golden yellow as the best indication. Most prefer eating the fruits right before they begin to wrinkle, or, three to five days after picking.
If plucking jujubes from the trees, wait until the fruit’s skin is no longer white. Fruits picked prematurely will not ripen well, whereas greenish-yellow fruits will continue to ripen off of the tree..
|Jujubes ripening on the tree|
Taste of Jujube
Dried jujubes have a smoky, bittersweet flavor. Another surprising note is that of a cheesy, musky flavor, almost like the mabolo. Jujubes sometimes have hints of coffee and chocolate, with these flavors being more apparent in the dried fruit than fresh. Packs of dried fruits are available year-round.
The taste of Indian jujubes greatly depends on the cultivar. At best, resemble an apple. Examples of varieties that generally fit this description are tenga-mitha-bogri, umran, gola, kaithli, kheera, seb, and nazuk. Other varieties can be mildly astringent, sour, and mix between acidic and sweet. The pulp’s texture ranges from slimy to juicy and at times, mealy. All jujubes possess a olive-like pit in the center of the fruit.
Chinese jujubes (which is the cultivar most commonly grown in the US and elsewhere), are similar to the Indian varieties, but are typically larger and sweeter.
Nutritional Value of Jujube
According to the USDA nutrient database, 100g of edible jujube has the following nutrition profile:
20.2g Carb (7% RDI)
1.30g Protein (2% RDI)
.2g Fat (negligible)
40IU Vitamin A (negligible)
69mg Vitamin C (115% RDI)
Thiamine/B1 (1% RDI)
Riboflavin/B2 (2% RDI)
.9mg Niacin (4% RDI)
.1mg Vitamin B6 (4% RDI)
21mg Calcium (2% RDI)
.5mg Iron (3% RDI)
10mg Magnesium (2% RDI)
23mg Phosphorous (2% RDI)
250mg Potassium (7% RDI)
.1mg Copper (4% RDI)
.1mg Manganese (4% RDI)
Health Benefits of Jujube
Chinese medicine values jujubes for the following qualities:
--Improves liver functions
--Rectifies spleen qi, as indicated by weakness, loose stools, shortness of breath and lack of appetite
--Serves as a calming agent and fights restlessness
--Restores the complexion
--Rectifies emotional disturbances
--Assists with detoxification
In the Middle East, some nutritionists prescribe jujubes for worms and parasites, as the fruit is a bowel-expelling agent
Scientific studies show promising health benefits of jujubes as well:
--Researchers in Taiwan discovered a polysaccharide in the fruit might be an anti-skin cancer agent.
--The Journal of Medicinal Food published reports from scientists in Korea that found jujubes assist with brain health after noticing the fruit increases hippocampal plasticity in middle-aged mice.
--A 2011 Epilepsy and Behavior article reveals that jujube extracts have anticonvulsant effects and can boost cognitive abilities post-seizure.
--The Journal of Ethnopharmacology published the works of scientists in Egypt who discovered antidiabetic qualities in jujube leaf extracts.
How to Open/Cut:
Fresh jujubes are best consumed out of hand: Simply place in the mouth and chew, minding the two seeds near the core and spitting it out once the edible fruit is devoured.
For dried jujubes, prepare them like dates: Soak them overnight before using in recipes. This will make the fruit softer and tender.
Store jujubes at room temperature while waiting for them to fully ripen. Then, store in the refrigerator: Fresh jujubes will keep for two to three months in their ideal conditions of 3 to 10 C, and 75 percent relative humidity. Avoid storing fruits below 3C, as this will result in chilling injuries indicated by sunken marks on the skin.
Keep dried jujubes like raisins: place them in an airtight container and keep in the refrigerator. Dried fruits withstand slightly warmer temperatures of up to 20C, but ideal humidity is 20 to 25 percent moisture.
Jujube Recipe Ideas and Uses:
Jujube might seem like a bizarre fruit to use for recipes, but functions beautifully in several dishes. Many use dried jujube as a date substitute, and thus add them to soups, desserts, and rice dishes.
--Make syrupy jujubes. Every pound of jujubes requires approximately 4 cups of water. Start by deseeding the fruits and soaking them in water for 3 hours. Then, boil the fruits for a few minutes and remove from the stove. Drain, add cold water, and drain again. Set the jujubes aside and simmer half of the sugar with water. Add the jujubes and the rest of the sugar and simmer until reduced into a syrupy, delicious concoction.
--The Chinese use jujube syrup for teas. Or, simply add slices of the fruit to hot water.
--Chef Chris Pandel made an interesting jujube puree with rehydrated jujubes, orange zest, pepper, coffee, and orange juice. The combination then gets cooked to a syrupy consistency.
--Substitute fresh jujubes for apples in muffins, bakes, tarts and cakes
--Make spiced jujube “butter” by adding the fruit in a pot of water with a cinnamon stick, cloves, and ginger. Stick the pot in the oven and bake for a few hours. Remove and wait for the fruits to cool. Remove the seeds and mash the fruit. Stick the mashed concoction back in the oven and cook for another few hours.
--Macerate jujubes and soaked in cognac
--Take a steamed banana cake recipe and add jujubes, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla, walnuts and raisins for the topping.
--Make yaksik, a Korean sticky rice recipe that incorporates jujubes along with cinnamon, pine nuts, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and salt
--Substitute dried jujubes for any recipes requiring dates or raisins
--Add chopped dried jujubes to trail mixes, cereal, and oatmeal. The fruit pairs well with raisins, brown sugar, and raspberries.
--In Andhra Pradesh, one dish with jujubes is called regi vadiyalu: Mix chopped jujubes (including the seeds) with jaggery, cumin, green chilies and salt to taste. Sun dry the mix for two hours and serve alongside rice.
|Jujube oatmeal from|
Fresh: Dates, Asian pears, pears, apples, raspberry, lemon juice, lime juice, salt, chili
Dried or cooked: Raisin, anise, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, persimmon, salt, sugar, caramel, chocolate, coconut, pistachio, walnut, almond, nut butters, jaggery, maple syrup, molasses, coffee, liqueur, orange, pomegranate, black tea, chai, malt beer, black pepper, fennel, cumin, green chili, ginger, ginseng
Ziziphus jujube (Indian date)
Ziziphus zizyphus (Chinese date)
Regu pandlu (Telegu)
Bor (Gujarati, Marathi)