The Chinese jujube
The Chinese jujube (Ziziphus jujuba Mill.) is one of the most important fruit crops in China and has been commonly used as a traditional Chinese medicine and food for thousands of years. The jujube is widely grown in China with cultivation records going back more than 3000 years and can also be found in neighbouring countries.
The jujube is a medium-sized tree, growing 7–10 metres high. The tree has shiny deciduous foliage and produces a fruit that is known as a drupe.
The fruit varies in size depending on the cultivar, and it has a thin, dark red skin surrounding a sweet, white flesh. The fruit is very nutritious with potassium, phosphorus, calcium and manganese being the major mineral components, as well as iron, sodium, zinc and copper.
The jujube is a rich source of vitamin C and B-complex. The vitamin C content is higher than other fruits which are well known for high content such as oranges. The antioxidant capacity of fresh jujube is also relatively high compared with other vegetables and fruits.
Jujube fruits are eaten fresh, dried or processed as ‘Chinese dates’ which have been used in confectionery such as breads, cake, candy, compote and jam.
In Western Australia, Chinese jujubes are grown in the Perth Hills, the northern Rangelands, the South West and Great Southern regions. In eastern Australia, jujubes can be found in a few properties in Victoria and South Australia.
Small quantities of Chinese jujube are sold at local markets and some Asian supermarkets in Perth. Fresh jujubes sell in Perth at wholesale prices of $10–20 per kilogram. Dried product imported from China is sold in some health food stores at $5–7/kg. Local dried jujubes sell for $20 per kilogram.
Western Australia’s proximity to South East Asia and its counter-seasonal production to the northern hemisphere provides an opportunity to market product for the increasing demand, especially during festivals. Target markets include China, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The jujube industry in Australia has potential to be a new profitable agricultural business to meet the requirements of domestic and overseas markets.