The Elusive Jujube

Jujubes in the wild are organic, natural, wrinkly and healthy. Aren't we all?

You think you know it all until you go to Santa Monica Farmers’ Market, ideally on a Wednesday. For the maiden-voyage of our new Hook ‘n Go shopping cart (which, incidentally, we were unable to collapse back down into the folded position),  we ventured west to Arizona Avenue in the fine morning drizzle.

We went in search of Flying Disc Dates, and found none– just competitors. We did find Jujubes, certified organic, from Burkart Farms in Dinuba, California. Red, wrinkly, paradigm-shifting.

But first, a word about the Farmers Market. A DL parking tip from a reliable source. Parking is, of course, an issue which can diminish the joy-factor of this outing if you’re navigating by car. My intel, Derek, hipped me to a theory which I have tested, and therefore pass on to be true. Drive down 2nd Street toward the market, and enter parking Structure 4. It will be on your right, just before the police saw-horses and other barricades for the market dead-end the street.

By the time you get there, the LED sign for the lot may read “Full”. Suckers. Drive in, take the ticket, and proceed directly to the roof of Structure 4, Level 9, where there will be open spaces under the glorious Santa Monica sun. There is signage warning you not to do this unless you’re a vendor/merchant /office occupant. This signage dates from another time. The Santa Monica parking patrol, as vehement as they are, currently seem to turn a blind eye on this infraction– at least this is the word from people who work on the Promenade.

Then just scamper down the alley out into the Market space (bring your ticket with you, so you can pay at the kiosk at the ground-level elevators to get out).

Resisting carnelian bunches of hyacinths and scraggly but pungent stalks of tuberoses at the flower stalls, we encountered baggies of Jujubes. In our Brooklyn upbringing, Jujubes were also called Jujyfruits (not to be confused with the chewing gum, Juicy Fruit). Jujubes in that sense were, and are, smoothish, jellyish gumdrop-like candies, classic movie concession stand fare, sold in a bright, rectangular cardboard box. Every Jujube of this kind I ever put in my mouth was stale, and threatened to pull the mercury-laden fillings from my back molars with every rubbery grind.

These Burkart Farms Jujubes must be a distant, ancient inspiration for the same, although the correlation requires imagination.

The fruit is sometimes, and apparently incorrectly, called a Chinese date. Its botanical name is Ziziphus zizyphus, which really sounds made-up. It’s in the buckthorn family, Rhamnaceae. Other modern Arabic, Farsi, Turkish and Indian names for the fruit include nabq, dum, tsal, sadr, zufzuuf, sidr, azgwar, anab, annab, innab, henap, hunnap, and kul boroi. In China, the red and black jujubes are called hong zao and hei zao, respectively. In Korean, it’s daechu. Tamil names for it include Yelchi Hannu, Regi Pandu and Regi Vadiyalu, the latter being sun-dried cakes made with the crushed, ripe fruit, to which red chilies, salt and tamarind are added.Who knew?

In the bag, the jujubes have the light, matte, shrivelly, puckery texture of a sun-dried tomato, versus the dense, sticky, slick, moist, smooth skin of a dried date.

Their pedigree goes back to South Asia, where they were cultivated about 11,000 years ago, first as a shade tree. There are more than 400 cultivars.

In Chinese and Korean traditional medicine, this fruit is used to relieve stress– definitely a must when searching for a parking spot at the Farmers’ Market. Now that I know there is more to the Jujube than rock-hard gummy candy, I notice that many claims are made for its healthful properties– wound-healing, memory-improvement, anti-inflammatory, immunostimulant, the whole nine.

Chinese and Korean fanciers process the jujube into tea bags, syrup, wine. The Jujube man told me that they’re good soaked in warm water as a tea, for sweet dreams. He also warned me that chewing more than one or two in their dried, potent state would lead to, and I quote, “an extended visitation to the porcelain god”, which was just enough information.

–Victoria Thomas

Victoria Thomas

About Victoria Thomas

Brooklyn-born Victoria Thomas loves writing about flora and fauna, although she chooses to do so in an urban setting. If she had it all to do over again, she might have become a forensic entomologist. She lives in Los Angeles.
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1 Response to The Elusive Jujube

  1. JZ says:

    I love reading Victoria’s work. She is smart and fun to read.


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