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Sunday
Mar042012

Jujubes (Chinese "Date")

Jujube is a small deciduous tree or shrub reaching a height of 5 to 10 meters, usually with thorny branches. The leaves are shiny-green, ovate-acute, 2 to 7-cm wide and 1 to 3 cm broad, with three conspicuous veins at the base, and a finely toothed margin. The flowers are small, 5 mm wide, with five inconspicuous yellowish green petals. The fruit is an edible oval drupe 1.5 to 3 cm deep; when immature it is smooth-green, with the consistency and taste of an apple, maturing brown to purplish black and eventually wrinkled, looking like a small date. There is a single hard stone similar to an olive stone.

Medicinal Use

The fruits are used in Chinese and Korean traditional medicine, where they are believed to alleviate stress, and traditionally for their antifungal, antibacterial, antiulcer, anti-inflammatory, sedative, antispastic, antifertility/contraception, hypotensive and Antinephritic, cardiotonic, antioxidant, immunostimulant, and wound healing properties.

Culinary Use

The freshly harvested as well as the candied dried fruits are often eaten as a snack, or with tea. They are available in either red or black (called hóng zǎo or hēi zǎo, respectively, in Chinese), the latter being smoked to enhance their flavor. In China and Korea, a sweetened tea syrup containing Jujube fruits is available in glass jars, and canned Jujube tea or Jujube tea in the form of teabags is also available. Although not widely available, Jujube juice and Jujube vinegar (called 枣醋 or 红枣醋 in Chinese) are also produced; they are used for making pickles in West Bengal and Bangladesh.

Other Uses

  • The Jujube's sweet smell is believed to make teenagers fall in love, and as a result, in the Himalaya and Karakoram regions, boys take a stem of sweet-smelling jujube flowers with them or put it on their hats to attract girls.
  • In the traditional Chinese wedding ceremony, the Jujube was often placed in the newlyweds' bedroom as a good luck charm for fertility, along with peanuts, longan, and chestnuts, punning on an invocation to "have an honored child soon".
  • In Bhutan, the leaves are used as a potpourri to help keep the houses of the inhabitants smelling fresh and clean. It is also used to keep bugs and other insects out of the house and free of infestation.
  • In Korea, the wood is used to make the body of the taepyeongso, a double-reed wind instrument. The wood is also used to make Go bowls.
  • In Vietnam, the Jujube fruit is eaten freshly picked from the tree as a snack. It is also dried and used in desserts, such as sâm bổ lượng, a cold beverage that includes the dried jujube, longan, fresh seaweed, barley, and lotus seeds.
  • A Jujube honey is produced in the middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

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