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These are Good Juju

By Beet 2024 04 April


What we’re talking about here isn’t just “good juju,” but Ziziphus jujube, the incredible jujube.  Also known as Chinese dates, red dates, Tsao and Korean dates, jujubes belong to Rhamnaceae, the buckthorn family.

Cultivated for more than 4,000 years in what’s believed to be their native China, jujubes were used as nutritional remedies. Their flesh has also flavored mooncakes for the autumn Mooncake Festival, the second most important celebration in China next to Chinese New Year.

The fruits were taken by extensive trade routes throughout Asia, the Middle East, Northern Africa and eventually Europe.  They were used medicinally by John Gerard in 1600s Europe.  In the early 1900s, they arrived in America with Asian immigrants who came to build the railroads. In 1908 while visiting China, US agricultural explorer Frank Meyers (who partnered with USDA) returned with samples of 67 jujube varieties, including the So jujube.  Meyers’ samples were propagated at the Chico, CA plant station, then distributed to other USDA stations in FL, GA, NM, OK, and TX.  Today, only specialty growers have So jujubes, but other improved varieties are readily available for home growers.

Prized for their unique appearance, jujube fruits are also excellent sources of fiber, vitamins A & C, potassium, calcium, phosphorous and iron. While fresh, jujubes are delightfully consumed out-of-hand.  Both the crisp, sweet, apple-like flesh and thin mahogany skin are edible.  The date-like seed should be discarded. Jujubes can also be dried, made into paste, and used instead of dates in baked goods and candies.  You can cook jujubes in soups, simmer them into syrups, steep them into tea, and flavor butter, jams and beverages.

Thriving in well-drained soils in a sunny location, jujubes are drought tolerant, require little fertilizer, and produce fruit whether pruned or not. Their imperviousness to pests and diseases is definitely another plus to raising these delightful, delicious and nutritious fruits.

These deciduous trees range from 8 to 12 feet tall, depending on variety and winter pruning.  So and various contorted varieties are even more compact. They’re unique deciduous specimens with exceptionally hard thorny wood, zig-zagging branches and small ovate leaves.

Inconspicuous 1/5 inch greenish-yellow or white fringed flowers appear over several months from late spring (missing frost damage) into summer.  Although flowers are receptive to pollination for only one day, most are partially self-fertile.  A second variety ensures better crops.

Fruits are drupes that develop over the summer into round or elongate shapes from ½ to 2 inches, depending on cultivar.  Starting out bright green, the fruits turn to a dark mahogany when ripe.  If picked when green, they won’t further ripen once off the tree.  Fruits will ripen over an extended time period of 2 to 3 months — yet another great reason to plant a jujube.

Once picked, jujubes can only be stored and refrigerated for about a week.  Enjoy them fresh while you can.  Drying or freezing will keep you in good jujube supply all year to use whenever you want.

So, what are you waiting for?  Give to your garden and fill your fruit basket with some “good juju” harvested from your own sweet jujubes.


California Rare Fruit Growers

Jujube – CRFG Fruit Facts



Specialty Produce

So Jujube Information and Facts

Ty Ty Nursery

History of the Chinese Jujube – ‘Zizphus jujube’ Tree

Jujube Sources:

One Green World

One Green World has the So contorted jujube.

Raintree Nursery



Jujube Rice Pudding

12 to 16 fresh jujubes, pits removed (slice vertically all around, twist halves in opposite directions, then dislodge the pit) and cut into large chunks

1 cup short grain brown rice

2 cups water

2 cups of soy, almond or regular milk

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

¼ cup honey or agave nectar

1 egg

zest of one organic lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract (optional)

Sliced toasted almonds

Bring water to a boil in medium saucepan.  Add rice and stir until mixed.  Cover and cook on medium low until tender and liquid is absorbed, about 30-40 minutes.

Put 1½ cups milk, spices, sea salt, honey and chopped jujubes in a clean saucepan and stir together.  Add cooked rice and cook over medium heat stirring frequently for about 15-20 minutes until thick.

Beat the egg with the remaining ½ cup milk.  Add egg mixture and lemon zest to the rice, then return to heat and cook, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add vanilla and almond flavorings, stirring until combined.

Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream. (An alternative, soy whipping cream, can be found at Trader Joe’s.)  Sprinkle with sliced toasted almonds.

Serves 4-6.