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Like most undervalued treasures with beauty not outwardly expressed by appearance, the Jujube, or Chinese date, is a fruit that deserves closer inspection. Originally, our adoration for this tree stemmed from its hauntingly beautiful growth pattern. The way the crooked branches lead your eyes one way, then abruptly kink in the opposite direction that redirects the gaze, only to then weave an entirely new path a few inches further down the limb. It is effortless to appreciate the allure of a Jujube tree in its full summer splendor, decorated in lustrous leaves and embellished with tassels of glowing green orbs. But even in its most vulnerable state, stripped naked during the frigid winter months, the appeal of the twisted, chaotic branches is enchanting.
In true overachiever fashion, this attractive superstar also produces some of the most extraordinary fruit with numerous health benefits. The dried and puckered Jujubes that we see at the farmers markets or natural food grocers might be a hard sell for those that aren’t yet aware of this sugary-sweet elixir of life. However, the Jujube’s more youthful manifestation, a plump pendant mottled green and earthy red, would certainly not be overlooked. The truth is that Jujubes possess a remarkable range of healing properties in whatever incarnation you prefer--polished and sprightly or wrinkled and wise. When eaten fresh off the tree, Jujube fruit is reminiscent of a dense, honeyed apple or pear. Dried, the Jujube is comparable to a chewy date with sweet, caramel-like qualities. We also love the simplicity of enjoying this fruit—by casually grazing them fresh from the tree, letting them dry on the tree before harvesting at a later date, or harvesting them fresh and drying them on the kitchen counter or in a dehydrator. The Jujube tree truly does not ask for much, yet it provides plenty.
For thousands of years, the Jujube has been used by chefs and herbalists all over the world. In many cultures, little of the plant is wasted as the fruit, leaves and branches are all said to have qualities that improve human health. The fruit contains neuro-protective activities that promote memory and learning. Insomniacs and anxiety sufferers revere its properties that aid the nervous system in calming the mind and promoting sleep. Jujubes have even been the subject of research for immunity boosting bioactive compounds that are correlated with the reduction in the spread of cancerous cells. Additionally, they contain a hefty dose of antioxidants such as vitamin C and A to help combat free radicals in the body that may lead to heart disease and certain cancers. This magical fruit that aids in digestion and may regulate blood pressure is even drought tolerant once established. Perhaps the only thing not to like about Jujube trees is the fact that they tend to sell out early, so order yours now!