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Small jujube has big impact as health food

By: Gloria Young Home & Garden
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They’re a rarity at supermarkets and even farmers markets, but jujubes pack a healthy punch and are one of the world’s oldest fruits. “Some people claim it is the original stone fruit — that all stone fruits derive from the jujube,” Camelia Enriquez-Miller of Twin Peaks Orchards said recently. October and November are high season for the jujube and at Twin Peaks in Newcastle, the trees are loaded with fruit ready for harvest. Owner Sheila Enriquez put in the trees about 10 years ago. “The way it started is somebody came from the Bay Area and said he wanted us to plant some and he would buy (the fruit),” she said. “Then he said he’d buy them after we dried them, but we’re not in the fruit-drying business, so now we’re stuck with all these trees.” Jujubes are very hardy — cold tolerant down to 20 below zero, according to Eric Hansen, who grows them on one lone tree at Pine Hill Orchard in Loomis. “They’re very easy to care for. Mine is still going strong after 20 years,” he said. Hansen purchased the tree through the California Rare Fruit Growers Society. “They’re a grafted tree. You don’t grow them from seed,” he said. The fruit is very popular in Asia, particularly China and Korea, he said. Although the taste is reminiscent of apple, it has the dry consistency of quince and is eaten fresh or dried. “I just eat them fresh,” Hansen said, adding that he likes them a little on the green side. “My wife chops them and puts them into stuffings and muffins.” The dried form is popular in herbal medicine, according to Miller. “They’re said to have really high levels of iron and potassium, so they’re good for anemia issues,” she said. “They are believed to aid in digestion and are used almost like a sedative.” Other properties credited to the jujube are natural antihistamine and expectorant uses, as well as detoxifying effects. “It has lots of antioxidants,” Miller said. Miller spent some time with a herbalist in Sebastopol to learn about the medicinal uses. The herbalist suggested drinking a tea made from the dried fruit to take optimal advantage of the health benefits. “Eating it fresh, 10 to 12 is the serving size and it is supposed to have the same type of effect,” Miller said. Jujubes are also high in vitamin C. “Some cultures didn’t have citrus from vitamin C, so they had to rely on other fruit,” Hansen said. “It will grow in areas that (are too cold) for citrus.” Miller enjoys the raw fruit, picking a few when she goes out to the family orchard. “Every time I go out to the trees, I sneak a snack,” she said. Twin Peaks grows two varieties of jujubes — li and lang. “The lang is the smaller of the two and it is the pollinator,” Enriquez said. Miller, who handles marketing at Twin Peaks, gave a demonstration of the fruit Saturday at Whole Foods Market in Roseville. Whole Foods is carrying jujubes in the produce section for the next few weeks, she said. “I’m working with the Whole Body team to promote the health and medicinal purposes,” she said. The fruit may also be purchased directly from Twin Peaks Orchard.