Other names: Chinese Date, Tsao
Availability: June through November.
Source: United States.
Handling Tips: 45° F storage.
General Information: The immature fruit is smooth-green, and resembles the consistency and taste of an apple, but as it matures more, it darkens to red to purplish-black and becomes wrinkled, looking like a small date (hence the name Chinese Date). There is a single hard stone, similar to an olive stone. In Persian cuisine, the dried drupes are known as annab.
Applications: The fruits are used in Chinese and Korean traditional medicine. Ziziphin, a compound in the leaves of the jujube, suppresses the ability to perceive sweet taste in humans. The fruit, being mucilaginous, is also very soothing to the throat and decoctions of jujube have often been used in pharmacy to treat sore throats. In addition to their medicinal use, the candied dried fruits are often eaten as a snack, or with tea. They are available either red or black, the latter being smoked to enhance their flavour. In Korea, China, and Taiwan, a sweetened tea syrup containing jujube fruits is available in glass jars, and canned jujube tea or jujube tea in the form of teabags is also available. Although not widely available, jujube juice is also produced. In China and Taiwan, a wine made from jujubes called hong zao jiu is also produced.
In Japanese, the natsume has given its name to a style of tea caddy used in tea ceremony.
Most often enjoyed as candied fruit, it can be paired with rice, or other grains, or used in sweet or gingerbreads.
History: The jujube originated in China where they have been cultivated for more than 4,000 years and where there are over 400 cultivars. The plants traveled beyond Asia centuries ago and today are grown to some extent in Russia, northern Africa, southern Europe, the Middle East and the southwestern United States. Jujube seedlings, inferior to the Chinese cultivars, were introduced into Europe at the beginning of the Christian era and carried to the U. S. in 1837. It wasn't until 1908 that improved Chinese selections were introduced by the USDA.