The jujube is a type of fruit common across much of Asia. It is sold both fresh and dried, with the dried version sometimes called a Chinese Date, due to its sweet granular texture and single seed. The jujube has over four hundred cultivars in China, where it was grown for centuries before being introduced to Europe by explorers. In Europe, dried jujubes became wildly popular, and the term came to refer to any candy or sweet, the likely reason the name was chosen for a type of candy popular in the Southern United States.
The jujube tree can grow up to 40 feet (12 meters) in height, with long drooping branches, and is often thorny. The tree is quite lovely and used by some gardeners for ornamentation. Unlike many other fruiting trees, jujubes tend not to drop fruit as readily, and therefore will not make a mess of the garden beneath them. Jujube leaves are small and oval or round, turning yellow in the fall before dropping off. Almost all jujube leaves have spines.
The jujube fruit appears in the fall and is usually round in shape, although some cultivars have oblong fruit. The fruit is red when ripe, with a soft, edible skin surrounding creamy, sweet flesh. The fruit does not remain ripe for long, however. It soon begins to shrivel and dry on the tree into a brownish, wrinkled fruit that is also edible. For this reason, many cultivators leave the fruit on the tree to dry before collecting it for storage. In taste, the jujube resembles an apple, although it has a distinct flavor all its own.
Fresh ripe jujubes are very delicate and will keep approximately one week in refrigeration. They will not ripen further once removed from the tree, although they can bruise. The fruit is more often sold and eaten dried, and many nations offer a candied version that is delicious as well. The dried fruit does not need to be treated, as it dries naturally, and appears to keep indefinitely.
The leaves of the jujube tree are eaten by some animal species, and the fruit and bark are both used to generate brown or reddish plant dyes. The tree is also resistant to many pests, making in an excellent choice for organic gardening. Some adherents of Asian medicine believe that the jujube has many healthy qualities. The fruit is extremely high in vitamin C, but has no other demonstrated health benefits.