Fruit Facts

Li Jujube fruit fully ripe on the tree

Description

Jujube fruit can be round, oval, pear-shaped or even oblong depending on the cultivar. Smaller varieties are cherry-sized whereas others are about the size of a large plum. The skin is extremely thin and changes from pale yellow to chestnut brown when fully ripe. The flesh inside is almost white and extremely crisp in texture producing a reassuring crunch when bitten into.

Cross section of Jujube fruit
Fruit can be eaten fresh or dried and is well known in the Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Indian communities where it is widely available. In China, the Jujube, known locally as Red Date (hóng zǎo), is about as common as the apple in Western society.

The Jujube has a single stone, a bit like a plum. If you crack the stone you will find 2 seeds however getting these to grow is not an easy task. See the propagation section if you need more info.

Li Jujube fruit to scale

Taste

The taste of the fresh fruit is often described as reminiscent of an apple, however Jujubes have a taste that is all their own. Some cultivars are quite sweet and others have a distinctive tang. Whilst not as juicy as apples they sure can get your taste buds working overtime.

In contrast, the dried fruit can be quite intensely sweet hence the name Chinese Date. The texture is more like a spongy marsh mallow which tastes more like caramel with maybe a hint of molasses.

Nutrition

Jujubes are extremely high in Vitamin C. Weight-for-weight they have approximately 10 times the amount of Vitamin C as that found in Oranges. See the Nutrition and Health Benefits sections for further details.

Storage

Fruit does not ripen if picked green. The earliest stage for picking is when the green turns to a pale yellow and the first red blotches appear. At this stage fruits may be stored at room temperature for about a week; longer with refrigeration.

If left to turn fully red, a few days later the fruit will start to wrinkle as it enters its drying phase. As they dry the fruit becomes very sweet . It loses it's crunch and instead takes on a softer, spongy kind of texture.

When the Chinese talk of dates, they usually mean Jujubes. Palm dates are much less common in China.

Li Jujube - close up

Harvest

Jujubes ripen in late summer to mid autumn. In Australia this is from the end of February through to April (August - October in the northern hemisphere). The trees are unusual in that fruit does not all ripen at the same time. Instead fruit-bearing and ripening is staggered over a period of many weeks. It's common to see new flowers at the same time as ripe fruits on the same tree.

The Li variety is one of the earliest to bear fruit. Chico is mid-season and Lang late season. After this the only way to get these is as dried fruit.

Dried Fruit

Jujubes dry readily both on or off the tree. The drying process commences a few days after the fruit is fully ripe. The fruit will wrinkle and turn a deeper red. Unlike other fruits, Jujubes appear to be highly resistant to fungal spores and so don't need to be treated with preservatives such as sulphites which means fewer allergy problems for consumers.

The drying process is gradual and the exact point at which the fruit is ready is a matter of personal preference but if forcefully dried in an oven they can get very hard.

Dried jujube fruit

Do not confuse our dried fruit with the pre-packed imported varieties available in asian grocery stores. The fruit in those packs is tiny, is as hard as bullets and tastes awful. When we first discussed getting into Jujubes we tried a various brands and and they were so bad it almost put us off. However after trying some locally grown fresh fruit the difference was clear - in one word, quality. Locally grown fruit is not mass produced and comes from trees grafted with vaieties selected for their taste and not how many kilos they can produce.

The result is fruit that is:

  • Larger
  • Fresher
  • Additive free
  • Delicious
  • Won't break your teeth :-)

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