- Author: Janet K Hough
How I Learned Something New (again)
By Janet K. Hough, Master Gardener --
Ever since I became a Master Gardener family, friends, and casual acquaintances will ask me every gardening question under the sun and the only thing I know for sure is that - I know how much I do not know! But I am always up to learning something new, so I am always researching answers.
Well one of my sons-in-law threw out a challenge to me the other day. He said, just in passing, that his jujube tree is really doing well in his back yard. Now I have heard about the fruit – but never saw any, ate any, or even thought about purchasing and planting a jujube tree. Of course my curiosity was peaked. So I stopped and started questioning him.
QUESTION: Why did he pick a jujube tree to plant in his backyard?
ANSWER: He had never heard of it and just thought it would be fun to grow.
QUESTION: Where did he get the plant?
ANSWER: At a local Lowe's Garden Shop in Lake Elsinore where he lives.
QUESTION: When did he plant the tree?
ANSWER: About a year and a half ago. It is about 6' tall now.
QUESTION: What does he know about growing a jujube tree?
QUESTION: Has he ever tasted its fruit?
QUESTION: What has he done to maintain it?
ANSWER: Put it on a drip-system, and fed it some fertilizer when it was first planted.
QUESTION: Do you still have the label that identifies the type of plant you have?
Well with my questions and his answers ringing in my mind I now found another opportunity to learn something new (again). So I set out to research the jujube tree. First things first – Google here I come….tell me about the Jujube Plant.
Botanical name: Ziziphus jujuba
Common Name: Jujube, Chinese Date, or Tsao
Origin: It comes from China, where it has been cultivated for over 4,000 years. Today there about 400 known cultivars. While the tree has been distributed and grown around the world it was only introduced to the U.S in 1837; was approved by the USDA in 1908, but were never really popular until the late 1990s. Some recommended varieties to look for include: Sugar Cane, Li, Sherwood, Chico, and Honey Jar.
Note worthy comments: Experts tell me that no temperature seems to be too high in the summertime for the jujube tree – desert dwellers take note! Jujubes have fruited in such diverse areas as the Puget Sound and low Cascades of Washington State, to Pennsylvania, and Florida. While it can get to 40 feet in Florida it tends to be a bit smaller (30 feet) when grown in California. The plants send up suckers (often with intimidating spines) from their roots that can appear several feet away from the mother plant. It has small oval leaves about 1-2 inches long and are shiny green; they turn bright yellow before falling off in the fall. Each leaf has two spines at the base of the leaf. The jujube plant flowers from late spring into summer with a white to greenish-yellow 1/5 inch flower display. It seems ants and other insects are the main pollinators for this plant, not bees. And the plant is apparently not fussy about soil type either.
Fruit: Medical studies have shown that the fruit contains 20 times more vitamin C than any citrus fruit and are loaded with 18 of the most important amino acids. It is a strong candidate to grow just for its medicinal benefits. The fruit ripens non-simultaneously which means the fruit can be picked for several weeks from a single tree. The fruit, called a drupe (drupe meaning any fruit with a soft, fleshy part covered by a outer layer, all surrounding the seed) – is kind of like an apricot, cherry, or plum. Fully mature fruit is red, but I am told that many people like to eat it when it is in its yellow-green stage just starting to turn red. Someone said it is similar to biting into an apple. I am also told that if you pick the fruit when it is green – it will not ripen. The fruit can be eaten fresh, dried, candied, or made into a tea. Dried jujubes can be used as substitutes for dates or applies in recipes. Jujubes can also be pickled whole or used to make tea. All you cooks can get out your recipe books. There are lots and lots of recipes on the internet. Experts say that “tree-dried fruit stores indefinitely” - (Indefinitely? really?).
I found additional information about the plant on the rare fruit growers web site. I recommend a visit – The California Rare Fruit Growers - www.crfg.org for jujube and a whole lot more. They provide a great description of the various jujube cultivars that are popular in our local area. To find a list of nurseries that sell the jujube plant in southern California just click on “jujube plants for sale”. You might also want to check out the web for jujube recipes – lots of ideas out there.
I am anxiously watching my son-in-law's crop so I can try out some fresh and hopefully dried jujube fruit soon.