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I was sure some of you would be interested in this article form the previous comments I have had, so for my first in a series of Italy Bloggers' on Friday Feature this week I would like to introduce you to Rowena... and here is what she had to say along with her link to the relevant post on the jujube.
You have giuggiole (jujube)? What luck! Three years ago we went to the Festa della Giuggiole in Arquà Petrarca (Veneto) and had a lot of fun. I've wrote about the festa and some other pertinent info (they even had a jujube gelato stand - yum). Antonella Clerici even did a cooking experiment on her show. What fond memories, and 2010's festa should be happening around this time of year again. Here's the url of my post in case you or any or your readers might be interested:
Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of one of our trees before it lost its leaves for this year but I found the photograph above on the Wikipedia - Jujube page for the fruit.
Jujube in our Garden last month.
The jujube certainly has an interesting flavour as it tastes a little bit like an apple but I understand how it is also known as a Chinese Date as there is definitely a hint of the flavour and sweetness that you get from a date as well. Extensively cultivated in southern Asia, it seems likely it was introduced to south-eastern Europe many years ago. It is a small deciduous tree and grows around 5-10 metres in height, not very user friendly for harvesting as the branches are thorny. When I first saw these fruits I thought they were a different sort of olive as they are similar in size and the single hard stone is also like that of an olive!
The tree tolerates a wide range of temperatures and rainfall, though it requires hot summers and sufficient water for acceptable fruiting. Unlike most of the other species in the genus, it tolerates fairly cold winters, surviving temperatures down to about −15°C. This enables the jujube to grow in desert habitats, provided there is access to underground water through the summer. Virtually no temperature seems to be too high in summertime.
Apart from eating these unusual little fruits as snacks it seems they are used in Asia in traditional medicine, stress and sore throats are mentioned. Jujube juices and teas are also produced and in China even a wine, it seems that in Asia there is in fact a wide variety of uses. We did not produce many this year, only enough to enjoy as a little nibble for a few weeks.
I also discovered that The Oxford Diner’s Dictionary, Food and Drink from A to Z, of which a copy lives in my kitchen, has an entry for the Jujube which I felt worth reproducing here in full.
“Although now little heard of, the jujube was common in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a fruit-flavoured gum or lozenge, often medicated to allay coughing. The first account of it in print comes in Peter Simmonds Dictionary of Trade Products (1858): ‘The term jujube is very generally applied by chemists and confectioners to a thickened mucilaginous lozenge’ However, this was merely a secondary application of the term, which originally denoted an edible berrylike fruit of a tree of the buckthorn family ( the word jujube is a corruption of its original Greek name zizyphon). The fruit, which has a red skin and sweet yellowish flesh, was perhaps used to flavour the lozenges which became know as jujubes; or alternatively the transfer of names may have been based on a similarity of shape.”
Well there you go, certainly until recently I had only ever know jujubes as a type of lozenge certainly not as a fruit I would be eating from my own garden in Italy!