The jujube is a fruit tree once very common in the Mediterranean region. Its tasty fruits, named Chinese dates or jujubes, are rich in vitamins and also have medicinal properties.
The genus Ziziphus includes 80 species of shrubs or small trees, persistent or deciduous in tropical or subtropical areas of Asia or America, and temperate regions of both hemispheres. It belongs to the Rhamnaceae family. The three ribs of the limb are well marked and the thorny petiole has a long straight thorn and the other are short and hooked. Relapsing or spraining antlers may also bear thorns.
The common jujube, Ziziphus Jujuba, nicknamed the “Chinese date”, “Korean date” or “Indian date” is a rustic species that tolerates -15 °C, up to -30 °C. It grows on dry, stony hills and preferably on limestone. Its growth is quite slow and its life expectancy reaches 30 to 40 years. Its tortuous shape, its drooping twigs with glossy foliage make it a beautiful ornamental tree which can reach 12 meters high but more generally 6 to 8 meters. The bark of the old trunk, deeply cracked is pinkish beige. The tree tends to sucker.
The leaves arranged on two rows are oval or spear-shaped, measuring 2.5 to 5 cm long, with slightly toothed margins. Their very attractive glossy green color is a little lighter on the reverse and turns yellow in the fall before the leaves fall. The small fragrant flowers of 3-4 mm, white to yellowish, appear in the armpit of the leaves, grouped by 2 to 5, in June-July. They consist of 5 sepals and 5 slightly shorter petals.
Fruits, with a nucleus, are called “jujubes” or “Chinese dates”. They recall the taste of the green apple in the fresh state, and that of the date once dried from which their nickname. They evolve from green to yellow and then to dark brown or bright red. The shape and size of the jujubes varies according to the cultivars: round, oblong, sometimes pear-shaped or pilgrim squash. Rich in vitamins A and C, in iron and calcium and of course in sugars (as much as fig), they can dry, candied, prepare in the form of jam or paste.
Ziziphus is derived from the Arabic “Zizouf”. Jujuba refers to the popular name used in India to designate this tree. It was awarded by Johannes Burman (1707-1779), a contemporary German botanist of Linnaeus.
History of jujube
The common jujube has been cultivated for more than 4 000 years in China and reached the Mediterranean Basin 2 000 years B.C. It was brought from Syria to Rome under the Emperor Augustus (63 B.C.-14 A.D.) who introduced it to Gaul. Its geographical area now includes the south and southeast of Europe, the Middle East, the Balochistan, northwestern India, the Himalayas, northern China, Japan and the southwestern United States.
Homer (8th century BC) evoked in the Odyssey, the land of the lotus like the one where the lotus-eaters came from, and ate jujubes. These fruits had the power to make them happy because they made them forget the love of their homeland to the sailors of Ulysses. Herodotus (5th century BC) locates this region between Gabès in Tunisia and Tripoli in Libya. It could also be the island of Djerba.
In the Mediterranean region, the jujube was planted near the well of the village gardens and very rarely near the vine houses. Today, the common jujube is threatened with extinction on the Mediterranean region because it has fallen into oblivion. Even in those regions, few people know this tree when it was part of the daily life half a century ago! This fruit was used as a transition between summer and winter fruit.
Species and varieties of jujube
There are only 2-3 forms of Ziziphus jujuba in the Mediterranean region but more than 400 cultivars (less thorny) have emerged in China, some of which have been released by the United States sometimes under a new name. Frank Nicolas Meyer, through the Chico Agricultural Station in California, introduced nearly 80 cultivars of Chinese date to the United States in the early twentieth century.
Some cultivars with strange shapes come from Chinese collection nurseries. Other species present around the Mediterranean and semi-arid Africa are mentioned because of their economic importance.
Culture and maintenance of the jujube
- Water in the first few years after planting in a spaced but copious way to force the roots to grow in depth.
- Install mulching to no longer need to water afterwards and limit weeding.
- The jujube may be content with a slight organic nitrogen fertilization from time to day.
- In intensive cultivation, the tree is irrigated in summer and receives a nitrogenous organic fertilization every year. The soil is combined regularly in the summer.
Place pheromone traps or yellow mired in the jujube to prevent the Mediterranean fly from laying in the fruit. When the worm is in the fruit, the treatments are ineffective. It is preferable not to apply insecticides in order to preserve the auxiliaries (birds, predatory insects).