Native to South Asia, the jujube fruit—not to be confused with the candy of the same name—has just come into season in Southern California. When fresh, jujubes taste like an apple. Growers at last weekend’s farmers’ markets recommended eating them out of hand just as they begin to turn red. Often, the fruits are allowed to dry in the sun until they shrivel and brown. Dried, they taste more like a date.
The Chinese make a wine from the fruit called hong zao jiu. In the Middle East, they’re eaten as a snack, and in India they’re made into small sweet sun-dried cakes called ilanthai vadai.
Chef Shiho Yoshikawa is using the small stone fruit this month at Sweet Rose Creamery. She’s roasting ripe jujubes in the oven and then mixing them into Bay leaf ice cream with toasted walnuts. On the sorbet side of things, she says, “I love how Korean people make tea with dried jujube, ginger, cinnamon, and honey. It’s called deachu. I’m going to make a sorbet out of this combination next month. To make the sorbet, we cook fresh jujube down with honey, ginner, and cinnamon and then puree it. I add toasted pine nuts for a little crunch.” Find jujubes this month and next at most L.A. county farmers’ markets.