Jujube: The Surprising Little Fruit
Published Thursday, June 7, 2012
The fruit of the jujube tree is very popular in Lebanon. It has many benefits and is traditionally used as a remedy to many illnesses. A new study encourages its reintroduction into the agricultural mix in Lebanon.
Virtually every house garden in Lebanon has a few jujube trees. However, its cultivation has not developed beyond garden use.
A recent study by a group of experts on economic development suggests that the fruit could well become a more staple ingredient in local agriculture, since “the Lebanese consumer enjoys it enormously, and demand sometimes reaching surprisingly high levels.”
The jujube, which was first discovered by the Chinese, who wrote poems about it, has “not had its fair due in Lebanon,” according to Ibrahim al-Tarshishi, the owner of a nursery selling jujube saplings in Chtaura.
Al-Tarshishi goes on to describe types of jujube and their features. “There are two kinds. The wild trees have been handed down from one generation of farmers to the next for thousands of years now,” he says.
“They do this by cutting small branches which grow around the trunks of old trees. They then plant them in the soil, with no need to graft them.”
“When fully grown, a tree can be as high as eight to ten meters. It has to be pruned every year to control its height and to preserve the quality of its fruits, which in one season can yield between 30 to 40kgs.”
“The fruits of this type are similar to olives in size and color,” he adds.
The second type is “the hybrid, which is imported. Its fruits are like dates in size and colour. Unlike the first type, these trees have no sharp thorns.”
Nassif Abu Rahhal, the owner of a jujube orchard, also explains the difference between the wild and imported jujube.
“The roots of the first type are thickly spread underground and have a negative effect on other fruit trees. There is no such problem with the hybrid type,” he says.
Agricultural engineer Jad Mansour explains that “jujube trees do not suffer from diseases and pests. But they are especially sensitive to increased humidity because they can be attacked by woodlice, which leave pockmarks on the tree. They are also vulnerable to birds who love their sweet taste.”
The trees are distinctive because “they do not need too much care, can be cultivated in most soils and do not need any shade.” Mansour advises that these trees should be planted “in rainfed land and arid areas.”
A tree begins to produce fruits “in the fourth year, and becomes properly productive in its tenth year, when the harvest from one tree can be 20kgs, gradually rising according to how successfully a tree is growing and the climate it is growing in,” he adds.
The expert study notes that in order to develop the cultivation of this tree, several factors are needed.
They include “irrigation at the right time of the year; a variety of types to suit the demands of the consumers; marketing the product through the largest possible number of points of sale; making other products from the fruits; direct distribution by the farms; and reducing the number of middlemen.”
The study looked at ways to entice people to buy the fruits “such as the farmer producing small bottles of jujube juice, and giving them out for free in the big city stores, where this fruit has been forgotten.”
The study concludes that the main aim of all of this is to introduce a new plant to the agricultural mix in Lebanon.
The jujube fruit has many benefits. Nutrition experts agree that it is rich in vitamins A and C. It contains nitrostilbene, which helps fight cholesterol and reduces triglycerides in the blood. Components of jujube can also be used to fight coughs, asthma, smallpox, measles, stomach ulcers, boils, pimples, kidney and bladder pain, chest pain and to clear the lungs of phlegm.
It also reduces headaches and migraines. Furthermore, it can be eaten fresh or dried, and used in sweets and fruit juices.
The Chinese have known jujube for at least 2500 years, using its fruits in making medicines. It is also mentioned in the Bible and the Quran several times.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.