That's right! Long before jujubes became synonymous with fruit-flavored jelly candies, they were a real
fruit. And still are! Have you ever eaten them?Jujubes look a bit like a horse chestnut when freshly picked and taste like a mild-flavored apple. Under-ripe fruits can taste chalky, but they gradually become sweeter as they mature. They also start to wrinkle as they age, which is why you'll sometimes see them called Chinese dates. You can also find them fully-dried like raisins, candied, or even smoked.
A few ripe jujubes travel well packed in a lunch bag and make an excellent afternoon snack. They can also be sliced and added to everything from salads to turkey stuffing. The dried varieties are traditionally used to make teas and tonics, but can also be a great alternative to raisins or dates in muffins, scones, and other quick breads.
The fruits originated in China, where they play a role in traditional Chinese medicine as a stress reliever, immune system enhancer, and anti-inflammatory agent. Here in the US, you'll be more likely to find them in Asian markets and West Coast farmers markets than the larger mainstream groceries.
Do you love jujubes? How do you use them in your cooking?
Related: Recipe: Chinese Chicken Soup
(Image: Flickr member Gary Soup licensed under Creative Commons)