Jujubes, otherwise known as the Chinese red date or Ziziphus jujuba, are being grown by an increasing number of Australian farmers across the country — but what are they, what do they taste like and why should you seek them out?
It’s thought that jujube trees originated from southern Asia between Lebanon and Northern India, which is why they appear in these cuisines, but they have spread as far as the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Trinidad. But by far, China is the largest global producer of jujubes.
Growing conditions and harvest
On the east coast of Australia, the bite-size fruit is harvested in late February through to late March. Because of the short harvest season, they’re sold fresh for a limited time and then dried and sold throughout the rest of the year.
Jujubes grow on trees that have chaotic growth nature with crisscross branches and hard-to-see sharp thorns making cultivation dangerous work.
As the fruit matures, so does the colour which transforms from dark green to yellow and eventually becoming dark red when left to fully mature on the tree.
They can be sourced through Prickle Hill Produce in New South Wales and Black Sheep Produce in South Australia.
Flavour profile and appearance
Eaten fresh, the texture is similar to a crunchy, crisp apple and the flavour is very sweet and tangy. The taste is a cross between an apple and a pear. When dried, they have a jammy, caramel flavour similar to a date.
Jujubes are common in Lebanese, Chinese and Korean cuisines, with dried dark red jujubes used in tea, soup or to flavour desserts. In Croatia, jujubes are used in marmalades, juices and fruit brandy.
In China, they are preserved in liquor and eaten like Maraschino cherries and they are smoked to the point of turning black in Vietnam. Australian chefs have taken to pickling fresh jujubes to serve with cheese or even pairing them with duck.
Jujubes are said to have a host of health benefits including improving blood circulation and digestion and are also rich in vitamin C.
Image credit: Jujubes Australia