One of the oldest fruits on the planet is relatively common here in Mallorca, and yet, we do not seem to know much about it. The Mallorcans call the fruit Gínjols (Castellano: Azufaifa); the tree is called Ginjoler (Castellano: Azufaifo).
In the non-Spanish speaking world, Ziziphus Zizyphus (also Ziziphus jujuba) is more commonly known as Jujube, Red Date or Chinese Date. The fruit is well-known across the Arab world, North Africa and the Middle East, in Iraq and Iran, in Southern India and Sri Lanka, where it is widely used in traditional herbal medicine, as well as eaten for food. You may have come across this strange-looking, small fruit in Mallorcan shops and local markets, especially at this time of year.
My Mallorcan friends tell me that they were given a single Gínjol fruit as a reward or a praise for a task well executed when they were children. Other than that, its main use is as a desert, for cakes and for sweet syrups or jellies. I’ve also seen the fruit in its dried version here in Mallorca, when it has a distinctly red colour; dry Gínjol is sold as a dàtil (date).
The crop ripens non-simultaneously, and fruit can be picked in Autumn for several weeks from a single tree. If picked green, Jujubes will not ripen. Ripe fruits may be stored at room temperature for about a week. The fruit may be eaten fresh, dried or candied. Fresh fruit is much prized by certain cultures and is commonly sold in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Indian markets. Tree-dried fruit stores indefinitely; it dries on the tree without the use of a sulfur preservative.
The fruits are said to cure coughs, resolve any other lung complaints, soothe the internal organs and reduce water retention. The fruit is used in Chinese and Korean traditional medicine, where they are believed to alleviate stress. The fruit apparently also has laxative properties.
A 17th century herbalist (Gerard) is quoted as saying:
The fruit of the Jujube tree eaten is of hard digestion, and nourisheth very little; but being taken in syrups, electuaries, and such like confections, it appealeth and smootheth the roughness of the throat, the breast and lungs, and is good against the cough, but exceeding good for the reines of the back, and kidneys and bladder.
Maybe we should give this little gem another try.
The wood of the Ziziphus jujuba tree is sometimes used to make wind instruments. In Mallorca, the pipes of Xeremíes (Castellano: Gaitas; bagpipes) are occasionally hand-carved from the wood of the Ginjoler tree.
The photo (top) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of herbarivirtual.uib.es. The photo (bottom) was also borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of flickr.com and Eric in SF.
Muchas gracias, and
thank you very much.