Jujube Tree Garland Community Garden - May 28, 2016

I just planted a Jujube (pronounced juh-ju-bee) in the Garland Community Garden this Memorial Day weekend in memory of all those who have gone before us.  With a little bit of luck, this tree will outlive all the visitors including children who visit the Garland Community Garden for at least the next 30 years.  Yes, the garden is being built to endure.  Why do you think we are planting so many perennials and self-seeding drought tolerant plants?

When/if we are gloating in the luxuriant, but false glow of our longevity as a species, we might bring ourselves down to earth by considering the world of plants.  It’s true that our expected lifespan triumphs over that of many animals such as dogs, cats, chickens, rats and the like.  However, in the world of plants, many examples of superiority can be pointed out.  Take the giant redwoods in California, for example.  These giants can live to be 2,000 years old and have graced the planet for more than 240 million years.  The jujube is another such example. There are jujubes in China that are said to be over 1000 years old.

The jujube which is said to have originated in northern Africa, has a long historic background in China as well as India.  It is mentioned in the earliest Sanskrit literature, and is intimately connected with the folklore of people of Punjab who consider jujube plants most sacred.  The fruit of the tree is associated with health and rejuvenation.

The jujube (also called “Chinese Date’) is a tough tree that needs little water and grows in just about any type of soil—from our thick clay to sandy soil.  Believe me, it grows in Dalhart, Texas and that proves my point.  You know what I mean if you’ve ever visited the panhandle of Texas.  (I grew up near there—keeping in mind that out in that part of Texas anything within 100 miles east, west, north or south is considered “near.”)  A jujube tree in Dalhart continued to produce fruit throughout the Dustbowl Days.

Introduction of the Jujube to the USA

 Frank N. Meyer, a plant explorer employed by the USDA, went to China in 1908 to catalog plants and trees that we did not have in this country. One group of trees was the improved varieties of jujubes. Although the wild, very small fruited, jujube had been imported to the United States from Europe in the 1800s, it was not very good and of little value. These improved varieties were much better, and the USDA thought they had a chance to become a great fruit for the Southwestern United States. Since they can grow with as little as 8 inches of rainfall a year, the thought was that they were ideal for many of the drier states, including Texas.



The Largest Jujube Tree in Texas

As mentioned, the Jujube thrives in our climate, requires little care and lives a long time.  This deciduous tree typically grows 12 to 15 feet tall.  However, if you want to see the largest known jujube tree in Texas, if not the USA, visit the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens.  They have a Jujube tree that reaches 45 feet to the sky. I find it interesting that the Jujube appears to grow mostly on one side.  If you look at the Ft. Worth tree and then look at the jujube I planted today, you'll see what I mean.




Notes from November 12, 2015:  Pile of Jujubes at Judy Li’s place.  We can grow jujube trees in our area and I hope to plant some this spring at the Garland Community Garden.  I ate several fresh ones while at Judy’s and she also served Charlie and me some delicious hot Jujube tea.  Jujubes are sometimes called red dates or Chinese dates.  They are great!

My First Close Encounter of the Jujube Kind

It was November 2015 [The Epic Saga of Judy Li] when I tasted my first jujube. 

As far as I’m concerned, to know a Jujube fruit is to love it.  I can see why it is so popular with the Chinese.  The fruit tastes wonderful—sweet, smoky, chewy, juicy.  Their taste and texture are similar to that of a date but while sweet, the jujube is not overpoweringly sugary as dates can be.  Tea made from the fruit is delicious to drink.  After drinking a cup of it, I had a wonderful sense of well-being that I still recall seven months later.  I do believe its claims to reduce anxiety.



Flowers of the Jujube

The jujube produces small, somewhat fragrant white to greenish yellow flowers of 1/5-inch diameter in large numbers in the leaf axils. The flowering period extends over several months from late spring into summer. However, individual flowers are receptive to pollen for only one day or less. Pollination needs of the jujube are not clearly defined, but appear to be done by ants or other insects and possibly by the wind. When our Jujube blooms I’ll be sure to watch to see what pollinators visit the tree.  Most jujube cultivars produce fruit without cross-pollination. The jujube is well protected from late spring frosts by delayed budding until all chance of cold weather has passed—making it a perfect fruit tree for our area with its sometime late February/early March ice storms.

Fruit of the Jujube

The fruit is a drupe, varying from round to elongate and from cherry-size to plum-size depending on cultivar. It has a thin, edible skin surrounding whitish flesh of sweet, agreeable flavor. The single hard stone contains two seeds.

The immature fruit is green in color, but as it ripens it goes through a yellow-green stage with mahogany-colored spots appearing on the skin as the fruit ripens further. The fully mature fruit is entirely red. Shortly after becoming fully red, the fruit begins to soften and wrinkle. The fruit can be eaten after it becomes wrinkled (the only kind I’ve eaten and they taste wonderful—like dates but without the overly sugary taste of dates). Many people prefer them during the interval between the yellow-green stage and the full red stage. At this stage the flesh is crisp and sweet, reminiscent of an apple.

The fruit has been used medicinally for millennia by many cultures. One of its most popular uses is as a tea for sore throat

Harvesting the Fruit

The crop ripens non-simultaneously in July and August and fruit can be picked for several weeks from a single tree. If picked green, jujubes will not ripen. Ripe fruits may be stored at room temperature for about a week. The fruit may be eaten fresh, dried or candied. Fresh fruit is much prized by certain cultures and is easily sold in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Indian markets. Tree dried fruit stores indefinitely and may have good marketing potential as it dries on the tree without the use of a sulfur preservative.


 Most Chinese cultivars in the U.S. are grafted or budded onto a thorny rootstalk, which produces many suckers from the roots. There is evidence that jujube cultivars will root on hard or soft woodcuttings. However, successes have been limited to date with this process of plant reproduction. Jujubes also can be propagated from seed, although they do not come true. Most jujube cultivars produce fruit without cross-pollination, but seeds from such self-pollination are usually not viable (such as from the Li or Lang cultivars).  Our jujube in the Garland Community Garden is a Li cultivar.

Planting a Jujube 

Plant where it will have plenty of room and plenty of sun.  Take this advice from Texas Gardener:

Jujubes do not tolerate shade well. They prefer full sun but need little fertilizer. The only fertilizer that is needed occasionally is nitrogen, especially on poor or sandy soils. Compost worked into the soil is good for those who prefer organic methods.”  [ SOURCE:  Texas Gardener, Jujube, A Fruit Well Adapted to Texas, - accessed May 27,2016]

Root Sprouting Problem

The only downside to the jujube is root sprouting.   According to George Ray McEachern, an Extension Horticulturist from Texas A &M: 

Root sprouting is a problem under mature plantings and can lead to the formation of a thicket if control measures are not undertaken. As soon as sprouts form, they should be cut off at or under the ground.

 Plants produced from these sprouts will not produce the same type of fruit as the mother plant if the tops are grafted onto a rootstock. Young plants should not be used as a source of new plants unless they are grafted.”

Because of our frequent mowing at the garden, root sprouting is not anticipated to create any problems.


Nutritional  and Medicinal Value of a Jujube

In accordance with the National Center for Biotechnology, juice through the jujube fruit is shown to have cytotoxic action on various tumor lines. A report demonstrated that the amount of viable cells have been reduced after treatment method. These types of advantages have been related to the jujube’s high content of bioactive compounds.

Studies carried out over more than a 20-year period have demonstrated bioactive compounds to play a crucial role within the protection against long-term illnesses.

 Jujube fruit is additionally an anti-oxidant along with re-energizing qualities.

The dried fruits of the jujube consist of saponin, alkaloids and also triterpenoids. These 3 substances are all valuable in cleaning the blood, and also as a guide to digestion of food.

In Japan, research has revealed the jujube can improve immunity.

Additionally, jujube fruit is used to enhance muscle strength, improve strength, and as a tonic to boost liver function. A very common usage is to make a tea from the fruit to deal with aching throats. Ingesting the fruit may help deal with long-term exhaustion, respiratory disease, and also anemia.

The powerful chemical obtained from jujubes, jujuboside A, affects the hippocampus within the brain and is also usually used like a natural sleep aid. Jujubes may be used to deal with both insomnia and also anxiety

The Journal of Ethno-pharmacology documented in April 2009 that jujubes have an optimistic impact on the liver. They discovered that the jujube provides safety from liver injury through serving as an anti-oxidant. 

 A low-calorie treat:  Every 2-ounce offering of raw jujube, about 4 fruits, just has 44 calories and virtually no fat yet provides you with 1/2 gram of protein. 

So why don’t we hear more about jujubes?

Well, you just did.  Now get out there and tell others about this great plant that easily grows in North Texas and throughout most of the southern and southwestern USA.

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