Jujube Tree

by Green Deane

in Alcohol, Edible Raw, Fruits/Berries, Plants, Recipes, Trees/Shrubs


Jujube Tree fruit

  Ziziphus zizyphys: The Misspelled Jujube

If you don’t find the Jujube tree, it will find you. The Jujube is covered with long, sharp thorns. They hunt you down. They daw blood. They hurt. If I get within a yard of a Jujube Tree I somehow get skewered. Badly. Continuously. Inevitably.

Another little fact you are never told about the tree is if you plant it then move it the old roots, and the new roots where you plant it, will send up young shoots annually seemingly forever. You end up with a multitude of shin-high saplings puncturing your ankles. The Jujube is a pain but its fruit is tasty and versatile.

Jujube fruit varies in shaped

In the Buckthorn Family, the Jujube is distributed in warm-temperate and subtropical regions around the word. In the US it is naturalized in southern states from Georgia to California, excepting Louisiana and New Mexico but including Utah. Throughout the genus the leaves are quite regular and distinct. They alternate, are finely toothed, and have three prominent basal veins (coming from where the leaf meets the stem.) They also usually have two spines at the base of the leaf. The small flowers are chartruese (yellow-green) with five petals. The fruit is a drupe, edible, that can range from green when unripe to yellow to brown to red or black. When green it tastes like and apple and has the texture of an apple. When ripe it is closer to a date in flavor and texture. A single stone contains two black seeds which are not eaten.

Fruit is often sold dried

The Jujube has been cultivated for over 4,000 years and there are some 400 cultivars, that is, specifically bred varieties. Native to China — it’s been called the Chinese date and Indian date — Jujubes got to southern Europe around the time of the Romans and to the United States in 1837. Starting in 1908 high-quality cultivars were also introduced, initially in Tifton, Georgia by the USDA.

The genus has an interesting naming history. It was originally Rhammus zizyphys. But 15 years later it was put into a new genus but misspelled as Ziziphus. Naming rules prohibit calling the genus and the species by the same  name. But since one was misspelled the name uniquely stands as Ziziphus zizyphus. There are many species including Ziziphus jujuba, where the common name comes from. It is said ZIZ-ih-fuss jew-JEW-buh (or SIZE-eh-fus.)

Ziziphus comes from two different words. Zizafun was the Persian word for the Z. lotus tree (Jujube.)  Phus is latinized Greek meaning “bearing.” So Ziziphus in English means Jujube bearing.  Jujube can be said two ways: JEW-jewb or JUJU-bee.

While Jujubes can be eaten out of hand thery’re made into a wine, are cooked, and often are de-stoned and dried. A leaf extract, Ziziphin, alters taste perceptions of sugar in humans. It makes sweet things taste not sweet. Think of it as the anti-sweet. See recipes below. There are also numerous medicinal uses as well.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: A small, deciduous tree to 40 feet usually with single trunk and rounded crown. Waxy leaves are simple and alternate, green on top, whitish green on bottom, in two rows on zigzaging twigs. They have hairy  stems, very fine teeth, and three prominent veins. The brown bark has vertical fissures. And while I say the tree has thorns they are rightly spiny stipules. Bottom line: At each leaf you will find a half inch to one inch long very sharp thorn. Beware!

TIME OF YEAR: Fruits late in to winter depending upon climate. The fruit do not all ripen at the same time.

ENVIRONMENT: Likes sunny locations and sandy soil. Like regular watering but is drought tolerant, hardy down to -25F but needs around 200 chill hours to fruit if planted in a warm climate. It does not like to grow in a container.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Fruits are eaten raw, candied, made into drinks, and dried. They can eaten unripe, ripe and can be left to dry on the tree.  The ripe fruit is  very high in vitamin C.

Jujube Cake

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

2 cups dried, minced jujube

1 cup water

Bring these to a boil then set aside to cool

2 cups wheat flour

1 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Sift these together then add to the above mixture. Bake at 325° F

Candied Jujubes

Wash about three pounds dried jujubes; drain and prick each several times with a fork. In a kettle bring to a boil 5 cups water, 5-1/2 cups sugar, and 1 tablespoon corn starch. Add the jujubes and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Cool, cover, and chill overnight. The next day bring syrup and jujubes to a boil and simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes. With a slotted spoon lift jujubes from syrup and place slightly apart on rimmed pans. Dry in oven, or in sun for about 2 to 3 days. Check fruit frequently and turn fruit occasionally until the jujubes are like dry dates.

Jujube Syrup

Boil syrup remaining from the Candied Jujubes, uncovered, until reduced to about 2 cups. Use over pancakes and waffles. Store in the refrigerator. Other uses: Substitute the dried jujube wherever recipes call for raisins or dates.

If you would like to donate to Eat The Weeds please click here.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Alt March 7, 2017 at 03:09

I have two pretty jujube trees, one with grape-sized fruit and the other smaller. The smaller ones are a tad more flavoursome but i would describe both as BLAND. I have around fifteen species of birds that come to my garden, though I wonder how many of them feed on the jujubes. The thorny, shrubby tree offers perches for small birds like the white-eye. tailor bird and sparrow.


C Hoover September 11, 2016 at 17:39

Does anyone know if you can start aJujube tree from one of the fruit seeds. Also I just bought some at farmers market because it looked like a fruit my husband ate as a child at his grandfather’s place it was smaller in size but same taste however they called it a Japanese Date are they one and the same?


Green Deane September 12, 2016 at 20:15

Yes you can… there is some debate how true it will be with such shoots often not fruiting.


Solomon December 2, 2015 at 06:54

Hey I’ve heard some jujube species have a ‘high’ they give kind of like magic mushrooms. Does anyone know of that?


Green Deane December 3, 2015 at 16:42

They just taste like apples to me.


Sharbil September 17, 2015 at 22:03

Does anybody know which animal can climb up the jujube tree and eat all the fruit on the branches. We woke up today to find out all the fruits completely vanished, as if somebody intentionally picked them off the tree. We have several rabbits and few mice that I spot in the back yard, and a lot of birds of course.


Leland Stone August 23, 2015 at 16:49

Spotting jujubes at my local market for a mere $1.49/pound, I rolled the dice.

Simply underwhelming.

Distantly apple-like, the first bite’s impression was too bland and faint to be called “taste.” I’ll leave the rest to ripen, wrinkle, and dry and try again later, but frankly wish I’d saved the buck and a half.


Green Deane August 30, 2015 at 06:17

I can’t get near the plant without loss of blood.


michael blum June 22, 2013 at 16:20

I have a beautiful 10 year old jujube that we love. I just planted a moranga tree last year that looks just like are jujube, it even has the thorns and is sending out the same flowers as the jujube. Is it in the same family or is it the same plant? Can you eat the leaves of the jujube like the moranga tree ? Thanks Michael


Green Deane June 23, 2013 at 18:54

No. There is a mix up somewhere. Moringas do not have thorns.


Thomas Thorne April 18, 2014 at 19:15

I am aware that this is a very late reply, so you’ve probably figured it out by now. Anyway, jujube trees will occasionally send up a new plant somewhere through the root system. I got mine because a neighbor down the street had an old jujube and it sent a root aaaalll the way into my yard and presto, one came up a few feet from the fence. Perhaps it was a coincidence? It may have just happened to sprout a new tree from the roots where you thought you had planted a moranga.

Either that or it got mixed up at the nursery. Perhaps a simpler explanation.


purplefiggy September 28, 2012 at 10:05

I just found fresh jujube fruit at a market where I shop so I had to pick some up just to see what it was like.

Sounds like some of the best recipes involve dried jujubes – can you tell me the best way to dry them?


Aussie Forager CQ September 2, 2012 at 06:54

Interesting, thanks.


Aussie Forager CQ September 1, 2012 at 18:46

Hi, out of interest is Ziziphus ziziphus and Ziziphus mauritiana the same plant in question? It seems to be by description and looks, but here in Australia it is referenced as Z.mauritiana..…


Green Deane September 2, 2012 at 06:52

Two different species, both edible.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: