Jujubes originated in China where they have been cultivated for more than 4,000 years and where there are over 400 cultivars. The Chinese name “Tsao” translates to date, so it has become known as “Chinese date” in English.
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 light green flesh of sweet, agreeable flavour. The single hard stone contains two seeds that are generally not viable. The immature fruit is green in colour, but as it ripens it goes through a yellow-green stage with mahogany-coloured spots appearing on the skin as the fruit ripens further.
The fully mature fruit colours to a dark reddish/brown. Most 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.
Under dry conditions jujubes lose moisture, shrivel and become spongy inside. At this stage they assume the date-like appearance mentioned above, and can be stored over an extended period.
Varieties commonly grown in South Australia include Li, Lang, Chico and Silverhill, but with growing commercial interest the range of available varieties is set to expand.