We mostly know the word jujube from having snacks as a kid in the movie theatre. Jujubes were once unchewable resinous candies of many flavors, and then were changed to something akin to gummy bears. Jujubes are a general term for a variety of candies in many countries. Oddly enough, and for reasons I know not, there is a tree called a jujube that bears wonderful fruit.
Jujube trees (Ziziphus jujuba) have been cultivated in China for over four thousand years, and are gradually catching on in other countries. The first jujube fruit I ate was last year in a dried form. It was good, faintly reminiscent of a date. Now I have a tree that has just begun to bear fruit, and I am in love with it. The fruit is small, like very large olives. They begin green and then quickly turn to a reddish brown color, usually in blotches of color.
You can eat them fresh; in fact, I haven’t had them cooked yet. They are delightful. There is a center stone, such as in a date, but it holds two seeds.
The skin is thin and tender. The flesh is crisp and reminiscent of a green apple with hints of date. I love them. Many wait until the skin begins to wrinkle to eat them. You may pick the jujubes as they start turning color and they ripen quickly in the house without loss of flavor, or let them dry on the tree. Jujubes are high in vitamin C, and have been used medicinally in other countries, especially as a tea for sore throat. Best of all, so far the local birds ignore them, and there don’t seem to be any insect pests that love them.
What makes the jujube a wonder tree is that it doesn’t seem to mind intense heat; in fact, it loves full sunshine and dry conditions. It also can survive a chill factor down to -28 degrees F! It doesn’t mind clay or alkaline soils, although good drainage and regular watering insures a good crop. They require little or no fertilization. There are many cultivars, the best being from China and more inferior ones from India and Japan. Many are thorny but some are virtually thornless. The trees can grow 30 feet high, have an attractive drooping appearance and are deciduous, the leaves yellowing before dropping. Suckers can appear several feet away from the trunk and can be controlled by mowing or pruning. You can read more about this remarkable tree here.
Why not try a jujube tree? They provide food, windbreak, mulch and have a very hard wood, and take just about any conditions. And the next time you go to a movie theatre you can bring your own jujubes… dried!