Though many are familiar with the Chinese jujube, few outside of India are familiar with India’s own jujube, also known as an Indian plum. Despite having no resemblance or relation to plums (Prunus), Indian plums are more popular in India than the temperate fruit bearing the same name.
Origin of Indian Plum
As its namesake would suggest, Indian plums originate in India and a host of other regions. Of the 135 to 170 or so fruits in the Ziziphus genus, 17 are native to India. According to the book, “Fruits of Warm Climates,” these small fruits come from Southern China’s Province of Yunnan up through Afghanistan, as well as Malaysia down through Queensland. Authors of “The Encyclopedia of Fruit and Nuts” explain that archaeological remains reveal that the Indian plum was an important source of food in Pakistan over 8,000 years ago.
Since then, the tree has been introduced to Guam, parts of the Caribbean, Central America, Colombia and Venezuela. The trees failed to thrive in Israel, and the jujubes are considered pests in parts of Hawaii.
Today, the semi-arid regions of India produce the largest quantity of Indian plums. The fruits are also cultivated in Pakistan, Bangladesh and parts of Africa.
Availability of Indian Plum in India
Unlike the Chinese jujube, Indian plums grow in warmer conditions. They thrive in drier climates up to 1,000 meters in elevation, and wild trees grow up to 1,650 meters. Regions growing Indian plums include Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, and Assam.
India is one of the only countries to harvest jujubes commercially. In fact, a staggering 90 varieties are cultivated, all varying in size, quality, sweetness and color. Indian plums flower between July and October, with the fruits coming into season primarily from February through March: a few varieties come earlier, others later. Names of the 11 most popular cultivars are: Banarasi, Dandan, Pewandi, Kaithli, Narikelee, Muria Mahrara, Nazuk, Thornless, Sanauri 1, Sanauri 5, and Umran. The fruiting season coincides with the Chinese jujube, which adds to the confusion between these two very similar fruits.
Although over 300 varieties of Indian jujubes grow in the country, most garner little attention. Chinese jujube is cultivated with some seriousness in India, but not as much the Indian jujube.
Where to find Indian Plum in India
In the North, Indian plums sell like hotcakes when in season. The south receives plenty of plums as well, though these fruits are intermixed with Chinese jujubes and sold interchangeably. Villagers more commonly eat them than urban dwellers, but they’re still enjoyed by a wide variety of consumers.
Checking for Ripeness in Indian Plum
Indian plums show ripeness by changing colors from lime green to yellow, with many varieties settling into a golden yellow or brownish color when fully ripe. Others turn deep red or rust orange when ripe. Dried plums look leathery brown, which look unappetizing but are at peak taste.
Indian plums continue to ripen once picked, so it’s acceptable to buy slightly unripe fruits. Wholly unripe green fruits, however, will not continue ripening.
Taste of Indian Plum
Indian plums are usually less sweet than Chinese jujubes, but some varieties have a sharp sweetness including umrans and golas. When under ripe, the taste of an Indian plum is sour and astringent, like a wild apple. The texture is exceptionally crunchy: not as tough as celery, but crispier than green apples. When ripe, the astringency yields to a much sweeter, pleasant taste. The texture becomes less crisp and more giving, and the skin loses some of its tightness.
Overripe fruits actually have the greatest complexity, as their muskiness becomes the predominant flavor. Indeed, overripe Indian plums have an aged, cheesy taste with no hint of astringency or sourness.
Nutritional Value of Indian Plum
According to an analysis done in the Philippines and Honduras, 100g of Indian plums contain the following nutrition:
1.4g-6.2g Reducing sugars
.021mg Beta Carotene
.2-1.1mg Citric Acid
65.8-76mg Ascorbic Acid
Health Benefits of Indian Plum
Indian plums have many traditional applications. Authors of the book, “Indian Herbal Remedies,” write that Indian plum leaves treat piles, loss of voice, and internal issues. The fruit remedies hemoptysis, vaginal and menstrual problems, biliousness, rheumatoid issues, and also doubles as a purgative and demulcent. Green fruits act as a diuretic, laxative, and stomachic. Kernels of the fruit treat abdominal pain and diarrhea, and bark decoction treats gingivitis.
Many scientific studies indicate beneficial activities of the fruit as well:
--According to a study published in Pharmaceutical Biology, the seed extracts of Indian plums have hypoglycemic activities, thereby potentially aiding people with diabetes.
--In one study mentioned in Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, ethanol seed extracts exhibited antitumor activities by inhibiting carcinoma cancer cell growth.
--As per a study published in African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, the antioxidants in Indian plum leaf extracts combat liver toxicity induced by alcohol consumption.
--A study published in the International Journal of Natural Product Science found that Indian plum bark extracts possess wound-healing activity.
How to Open/Cut:
Indian plums have a long, stony pit that resembles an olive’s in their center. This makes removal of the pit akin to a cherry’s—difficult and cumbersome. For commercial ventures, Asian manufacturers sell de-seeding machines and jujube paste-making machines.
In the absence of a machine, de-pit by slicing each jujube as one would a mango: slice the fruit down the middle, slightly left or right of the pit. Do this for both sides and break the remaining sides away from the pit.
Peeling the fruit’s edible skin is not necessary.
Keep fruits in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator. At temperatures of 25-35C, they will keep for four to 15 days. At 10C, Indian plums keep from 28 to 45 days.
Indian Plum Recipe Ideas and Uses
--Eat underripe fruits with some salt, sugar or chili powder sprinkled on them.
--Stew the plums in some sweet liquor
--Dry the fruit and add to porridge
--Make plum butter by mashing the mealy ripe fruits
--Pickle unripe fruits for use as a side dish to various chutneys
--Make apple sauce from jujubes by boiling, de-seeding once soft, blending and adding classic flavors like cloves, sugar and cinnamon.
|Jujube butter from Autumnscopperpot.blogspot|
Fresh: Dates, raisins, Asian pears, pears, apples
Dried or cooked: Raspberries, anise, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, salt, sugar, caramel
Some cultivars of jujubes reach the size of eggs.
Indian date’s leaf extracts contain a compound called ziziphin, which temporarily inhibits the taste bud’s ability to detect sweetness. It has the opposite effect of the miracle berry, which makes sour foods taste sweet.
Regu pandu (Telegu)
*Note: some of these names double for the Chinese jujube (Ziziphus jujube)
|From Sampath Seeds|