A Brand-New, 4,000-Year-Old Fruit

Were you hoping to read a blog post all about jujubes today? You’re in luck! And I’m not talking about the gummy-esque movie theater candy, or the hilarious and wonderful former contestant on “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, either – I’m talking about fruit! Last week, I mentioned that I bought a fruit I had never heard of before at the store, called a jujube. Here’s the follow up report!

jujube-fresh

Turns out jujubes slowly get darker as they ripen, because this is what they looked like a few days after that:

fresh-jujubes

And here’s a close-up:

fresh-jujubes-closeup

They were starting to turn wrinkly, which made me think it was probably time to eat them. But first, I took to the interwebs to see what I could learn.

Jujubes date back thousands of years in the far east – archeologists suspect the Chinese have been cultivating them for 4,000 years.  They also were cultivated, independently, in the middle east, and some scholars think the jujube tree, which has pretty nasty thorns, may be mentioned in the Bible. They’re eaten throughout the world, and if you see mention of a Chinese date, Korean date, Indian date, or red date, know they’re all the same thing – A jujube.

Like the dates we commonly see in the dried section of the supermarket, jujubes are often dried and sold that way. In some Asian cultures, they’re served alongside coffee, made into tea, or turned into a syrup used to sweeten tea and desserts. It’s said that teenage boys in the Himalayas wear jujube flowers because their sweet smell makes teenage girls fall in love. And there’s a long history of jujubes being used for health reasons in traditional Chinese and Korean medicine. That’s not surprising at all – because jujubes are really good for you.

Jujubes contain 20 times the vitamin C that citrus fruits have. They’re also good sources of calcium and potassium, as well as an amazing 18 of the 24 amino acids that our bodies need. Other medical studies have shown that jujubes are good for the liver, can help with constipation and neonatal jaundice, and may have properties that can inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

But what do they taste like? The internet led me to believe that it would be most similar to an apple in both taste and texture. I cut one open to see what it looked like inside:

fresh-jujube-pit-sliced-open

Each one has a single, inedible pit in the middle, about the size of an olive pit. I cut the pit out, and popped a piece in my mouth. Crunchy. Bland. Not very good. Perhaps if I had waited a little longer, they would’ve gotten a bit sweeter? As is, they tasted more like a very slightly sweet raw potato than anything else. Not something I would want to eat raw.

So I decided to cook the other four jujubes. First, I cut them into slices.

fresh-jujube-slices

Then I cut up some other veggies (zucchini, yellow squash, onion, and broccoli) into pieces about the same size. Then I spritzed a skillet with some Pam and stir-fried it all together. I wasn’t sure how long it would take the jujube pieces to cook, but once the onions had softened and the other veggies were done, I sneaked a bite of the jujubes, and they were tender too.  I added a little jarred curry sauce at the end to coat everything, and voila! My lunch:

jujube-stirfry

(I piled some of the jujubes on top so you could see them)

Like potatoes, jujubes are much better cooked. They’re tender and smooth and even a bit creamy. They still aren’t the most flavorful thing, but that’s why there’s onions and curry. My guess is that they’re so frequently dried because they get sweeter that way, and I didn’t mind learning that the hard way. It’s fun to experiment with new things, and it’s fun to learn along the way!

Here’s a perfect bite of my healthy and, all told, delicious lunch:

jujube-stir-fry-closeup

Keep it up, David!

PS – I just added this post to my archives on The Produce Aisle page – click here to check out tons of other exotic fruits and vegetables that I’ve tried since I started blogging!

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