Dec 202013

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

UPDATE: 2019 – Jujubes will be on the bench and for sale in the nursery for sale on Saturday November 23. We are no longer reserving or holding jujube plants for people.

Please note, we cannot fill our local demand and do not currently post plants. We only deliver to nearby suburbs in Melbourne. This may change in the future, as we realise there is great demand across Australia for these plants. I will update this page if we are able to post plants. We are working to try and find a cost effective solution.

We are all very excited to finally have some jujube (Zizyphus jujuba) or Chinese red date trees to sell at BAAG. For me, thinking of this fruit brings back childhood memories eating them at Chinese restaurants in desserts such as “Eight Treasure Rice” when only the dried fruit were available and they were little known outside of the Chinese community.  It has been hard to get jujube trees in the past in Australia, but now that they are being grown at a small number of propagation nurseries here, they are starting to become more available.

So you can imagine my excitement at being able to finally source some trees for BAAG, and to be able to promote and spread the word about the amazing jujube. It is not only great to eat, but grows very well in our climate and conditions. Be aware that as a rare plant they are more expensive than your average fruit tree, but I think you will find them worth the extra cost.

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

The fresh fruit is often likened to apples (to which they are unrelated), with a crisp flesh and sweet flavour. Plants grow into small to medium sized trees up to 10 metres in height. They tolerate drought and cold to -10 degrees Celcius and will produce optimally with watering and fertilising. Jujubes are deciduous and will produce fruit in high quantities soon after planting. They also suffer minimal insect pests and diseases, but you will still need to be on the lookout for possums and birds.

Originating in China, and cultivated there for 4000 years, this small fruiting tree has been exported widely around the world. The Jujube is an elegant drooping small deciduous tree (7-10m) with shiny bright green leaves suitable for almost any environment in Australia. The fruit can be eaten fresh (sweet pleasant flavour, crisp texture) or dried (sweet, like a date) and is highly regarded for its flavour as well as for its nutritional value. High in various vitamins as well as in antioxidents, it is widely used in Chinese medicine.

This is the easy part – the hard part is getting a tree. Jujubes tolerate just about anything. They will tolerate extreme heat and cold, as well as saline conditions. They do need sun, and prefer well drained soil, otherwise are undemanding and can perform well with very little additional fertilising. Currently jujubes are grown on a rootstock that suckers, so if you’re going to get one please  remember to remove suckers if they appear and to plant it a bit deeper in the ground. Otherwise, grow it in a restricted growing space such as an enclosed garden bed or a large pot.

Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

Most cultivars are self pollinating. You can prune if you want to keep the tree to a more accessible size, and winter pruning (when all the leaves have dropped) will improve health and vigour. No spraying is necessary as no serious pests or diseases have appeared in Australia.

The fruit needs to be removed from the tree when ripe, as it will not ripen further after being picked. Fruit can be left to dry on the tree and will store indefinitely. This is a real bonus as it can be dried without the use of sulphur as a preservative.

Cultivars Available

Late season ripening.
A very tough tree which handles most climates, salt winds, hard frosts and poor soils. Almost round fruit, slightly flattened on the bottom, small (3-4cm) and a favourite as fresh fruit due to the crisp and light texture and distinct apple taste with a nice tang. A wonderful snack fresh, but also dries well. Fruit has a thin, edible, dark red skin surrounding a crisp white flesh. At the centre of the flesh is a small seed (pip). The fruit has a pleasant sweet taste and the texture and flavour resembles more an apple/pear than a date. Fruit size 35-45mm. Pick when the whole fruit (or at least 80%) has just turned brownish red

Mid season
An excellent elongated fruit. Good either fresh or dried. Has nice chewy texture when dried.

Late season
Probably the world’s second most grown Jujube behind Li.
Large fruit with a distinct pear shape.
Dries extremely well, but also nice eaten fresh. The higher acidity levels means it needs to be at the mostly red stage before it is perfect for fresh eating.

Early season (mid summer)
Commonly regarded as one of the best jujubes in production, the very large sweet round fruit has a small pit and is crisp and juicy, making it excellent for fresh eating as well as dried. The 4-5cm long fruit are one of the very few varieties that can be picked yellow-green and finish ripening off the tree. As the fruit ripens it turns to pale yellow and becomes even sweeter as it matures and red blotches appear on the skin. Flavour is excellent. Late flowering so almost never affected by late spring frosts. An oft repeated comment: ‘If you can only fit in one jujube, then make it a Li’. A narrow, upright tree.

Very Late Season
Virtually spineless An elongated dense fruit good fresh or dried.

Mid Season
Excellent, sweet, large, round fruit is considered one of the best for fresh eating, but also is good processed or dried. When dried, fruit has fine wrinkles on its surface.

Mid Season
Variously spelt: Sui Men, or Suimen
A highly flavoured elongated, almost oblong shaped fruit. Small to medium sized and very tasty. Considered delicious fresh or dried. Highly regarded.

Mid to late season
Long oval to pear shaped fruit. Slightly longer than Lang. Very good when dried. Slightly more acidic than Li, giving an excellent tang when eaten fresh.