Farmers’ Market Find: The Amazing Jujube

The jujube is truly a special fruit.  In its fresh form it’s often called a Chinese apple, which you can find in season for only a few months of the year, right about…now.  It starts out as pale green color and turns a golden brown as it ripens, then eventually deep red when it has dried.  The green versions are a little more juicy and the brown are a little more sweet.  The red dried jujubes are very sweet but they become chewy rather than crunchy.

The jujube is more traditionally known in its dried form, called a Chinese date or Da Zao.  It is a Chinese herb used in more formulas than I can count.  Its properties include improving the digestion, increasing energy, nourishing blood, calming the spirit, improving sleep, and moderating the actions of other herbs, which may be harsh or difficult to digest.

Jujubes have an especially strong effect on digestion when combined with fresh ginger (Sheng Jiang.)  While the jujube is a gentle, mild tonic that is nourishing, the ginger has a stronger effect, which is more dispersing and moving.  This pair is the definitive yin and yang combination for digestive herbs, and that is why they are so widely used together.  If you’d like more info on ginger, check out: my post about the natural goodness of ginger.

While the fresh version are still in season, you can enjoy them as they are, like tiny apples.  They have a pit instead of seeds and are a bit drier in texture than an apple, but stay juicier and tastier when kept cold in the fridge (in a plastic bag or air tight container which help keep them much longer so they don’t dry out.)

The skin is thick but they are so small they are a pain to skin.  For that reason I don’t use these much for baking, but add them more often into savory dishes where I don’t mind a tougher skin.  To cut up a jujube you just have to cut the edges off around the small pit in the middle.  Then you can cut the top and bottom of the core piece as well, just leaving the small pit behind.  Just make sure to remove the tiny little stem.  From there you can chop to whichever size you like.

Add the chopped up jujube into a sautee with onion, summer squash, bell pepper, eggplant, or greens.  They go great with just onion, kale, olive oil, salt and pepper.  I love to mix them in a porridge or stuffing.  You can roast them with chopped up root vegetables, apples and/or pears.  They go especially great with roasted chicken.

You can dry the jujubes yourself if you have a dehydrator.  The whole fruit takes quite a long time to dry, about 24-36 hours.  Once they are very wrinkled all over, go through and remove any pieces with black spots and store the good ones in a large, dry, clean jar with an airtight lid.

If you don’t catch them while they are in season or don’t have a dehydrator then you can easily buy the dried version, I see them at the Farmers’ Market all year round here in Los Angeles.  Usually the apple vendors carry them, I get mine specifically from Ha’s Apple Farm who frequent the Sunday Morning Atwater Village Farmers’ Market.

You can eat dried jujubes as is.  Kids love them but I find them a bit too sweet for me.

I prefer to use them as they were traditionally used for brewing tea.  Just boil 3 to 5 of them for 30-45 minutes in about a quart of water, you can add in other herbs like a thumb of fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick or you can add fresh mint in the last minute of cooking.  The first batch makes concentrated tea so I usually strain the tea off, add fresh water to the jujubes, cook again, and mix together the first and second batches.

You can sweeten with honey or maple syrup if you’d like.  It’s great to make a big batch and portion into several different jars to store in the fridge.  It makes for some very tasty herbal iced tea you can grab on the go which saves you from buying overly sweetened and over priced bottled iced tea.

If you make your own broth then try including a few dried jujubes and fresh ginger in your next batch, which I always do.

Fresh or dried, no matter how you use them, the jujube is truly a magnificent food.  If you have never tried them before, get to a Farmers’ Market and give them a go!


4 Responses to “Farmers’ Market Find: The Amazing Jujube”
  1. gina says:

    i cut my apples like that too!

  2. Monica says:

    If I’m not mistaken I believe we have several of these apple trees in my backyard. They’re small apples??

  3. Tori says:

    These are a great healthy thing to grow in my area, new mexico. The health benefits of these are awesome, and now I found someone in the local farmers market that has some in her back yard. I am definitely looking into growing my own, along with sea buckthorn, which the local university is promoting out here. I am drying my first batch right now, I’m doing it the way my korean friend said, first steam them until the skin softens and gets sticky, it draws the sugars up, and then let them dry. Then it’s time for tea!!!

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