Veggie of the Week - Jujube
sponsored by Coleman Farms
With the Jujube (Ziziphus jujuba), we're back to discussing produce found at the Farmers' Market. Not to be confused with the confection of the same name, the Jujube is a fruit about the size of an apricot, which should be available for the next few weeks at the Coleman Farms stand.
The Jujube has a long history: two sources agree that it has been cultivated in China for at least four thousand years. They don't agree on the plant's provenance, one putting it in North Africa and the Near East, the other in China. The Chinese have developed many - hundreds, I think - of recognized cultivars, producing fruit of different sizes and shapes. The ones I've seen in the Market are spheroidal and the size of a small apricot.
The eating qualities of the fruit are a bit difficult to describe, particularly the texture, which, in the fruit I sampled, was crisp but not crunchy, something like plain day old popcorn or a slightly overripe Pippen apple. The Jujube, though, is not overtly juicy, and in this is more like the popcorn. The flavor may be described as a delicate mixture of almond, rose, citrus and date. Jujubes are not particularly sweet - about as sweet as an almond - which allows the palate to better observe the flavors, which seem to develop sequentially.
Fresh Jujubes sold at the Market will most likely be eaten out of hand. They might be presented together with dates, figs, nuts and cheese as a sort of amplified cheese tray. Middle Eastern and Asian cusine makes extensive use of Jujubes in preparations ranging from dried and candied to syrup used as a sort of instant tea, and wine. These last two are favored because of the fruit's medicinal properties, which may be linked to their high vitamin C content. The blossoms are said to be used in Central Asia for their pheromonic effect on the human female. You'd have to ask the farmer about this.