A Juicy Powerhouse
Chockful of nutrients, the crispy, sweet jujube can do everything from tackling a cold to cooling you down on a hot summer’s day.
Words: Chusri Ngamprasert
Photo: Kay Choomongkol
Crunchy, sweet and tasting something like an astringent green apple, the jujube has been around for more than 4,000 years.
Originally from China, the jujube – also known as the Chinese date – made its way out of Asia centuries ago. There are at least 400 varieties, but the most commonly consumed ones are the Li and Lang. Li is large, round and best eaten fresh, while Lang is pear-shaped and best eaten when either fully ripe or dried.
Though the fruit typically turns red when ready to eat, a new type from Taiwan called the Mi Zao remains green even when fully mature. The fresh fruit is crisp and sweet, but when eaten dried it has an aromatic flavour with a soft, chewy texture.
When consumed fresh, the jujube is packed with flavonoids, phenols, antioxidants, manganese and iron. With an impressive 20 times more vitamin C than citrus fruits, it also boasts 18 of the 24 essential amino acids necessary for good health. The high levels of vitamins and minerals also help boost the immune system and build red blood cells, and the jujube is believed to help with insomnia, gastrointestinal problems, inflammation and blood pressure. This powerhouse of nutrients is also considered an adaptogen – meaning it can “adapt” to the body’s needs and help reduce stress.
In Chinese traditional medicine, the dried ripe jujube is classified as a warm food and is used to balance the Qi, to remove dampness, nourish the blood and strengthen the body. Meanwhile the dried jujube is considered to be a harmonising herb that makes ingredients taste better and be digested more smoothly.
The dried jujube makes for a very tasty snack and can also be used in a range of both sweet and savoury dishes, from porridge and smoothies to cake. Toss five to 10 dried jujube into a Chinese herbal chicken soup to add more flavour to the dish. If your recipe calls for dried apples, dates or goji berries and you’re out – dried jujube makes a tasty and healthy substitute. Got a cold? Hot ginger tea spiked with jujube is a great remedy. Hot? Use the same recipe, but with crushed ice rather than hot water to cool yourself down.