The Jujube, or Chinese Date, has been cultivated in China for more than 4000 years. There are over 400 cultivars of the tree offering a variety of sizes and shapes, foiliage, and fruit. They were first introduced in the United States in 1837, but it wasn't until 1908 that a more viable species arrived on the scene. The jujube can withstand a wide range of temperature variations and studies have shown that even high desert-temperatures have little to no affect on the plant. It can withstand temperatures as low as -28 degrees F and have fruited as far north as the Puget Sound all the way to the southern tip of Florida.
The Li variety of jujube (pictured left) is early ripening, producing large fruits up to 3 ounces each. They may be picked at the yellow-green stage or allowed to fully ripen on the tree, however, the fruit (pictured right) will not ripen further once removed from the tree. The fruit is reddish-brown, dry, and wrinkled. When eaten it is sweet and chewy, like
many dates. Fruit will ripen in early fall in California. Many varieties have inconsistent ripening and can be picked for several months. Li jujubes are attractive and easy to grow, recommended for beginners. They are drought-resistant, requiring long hot summers for maximum fruiting. The tree is virtually pest and disease free, requires very low chill hours, and is partially self-fruitful, though it is recommended to plant with a Lang jujube to ensure the best harvest.
Jujubes are decidious trees and, California, can reach heights between 20 and 30 feet tall. They are naturally drooping and offer a graceful, ornamental look to your landscape as well as providing shade and habit for birds. The branches are thorny with most cultivars, though virtually spineless varities exist, like the Lang (seen to the right). Additionally, the lang is more upright with a narrower crown than other varities. It also makes an excellent pollenator for other cultivars of the species.
The roots send up suckers quite regularly and must be controlled by hoeing or mowing to maximize growth of the mother tree. The flowers of all cultivars are inconspicuous, yellow-green blossoms less than 1/4 inch in diameter. They are moderately fragrant and attract pollenators like bees and butterflies. The jujube's natural mechanisms adjust its budding period to prevent damage from late frosts. Each flower produces a drupe fruit that passes through several observable stages from green to yellow-green to reddish-brown at which point the fruit begins to wrinkle. Most varieties are picked between the yellow-green and reddish-brown stages, but before wrinkling to ensure a sweet, crisp taste similar to an apple. Some varities, like the Lang (shown on the lower left) should be allowed to dry on the tree. Tree dried jujubes will keep almost indefinitely.
Lang and Li jujubes most outstanding quality is their tolerance for low water conditions. While some regular watering is required to improve fruiting, the tree will live through long periods of drought with minimal watering. Additionally, while jujubes grow best in sandy, well-drained soil, they can grow in most soil types and require little to no fertilizer.
***For best results and maximum potential, Li and Lang Jujubes should be planted together, as they are pollenizers for each other. Plant the two trees approximately 10 to 15 feet apart in full sun. If soil quality is very poor, heavy, or lacks drainage, amend the soil around the rootball with an organic, clay-busting compost or soil mix.
The goji berry, or wolfberry (English name), has stepped into the spotlight as a newest "superfood," containing high levels of beta-caratene, Vitamin C, and antioxidants. Many health food companies carry the dried berries, extracts, and capsules made from the berry. Unfortunately, these products are very expensive. The good news is, with backyard-to-table gardening, you can grow your own goji berry and reap the benefits for years to come.
Goji berry is a multi-trunked tree ranging in size from 3 to 9 feet depending on climate and geography. Each tree widens in a 4 to 5 foot spread with a tendency toward weeping and spreading. Central canes can be bunched and supported with stakes for support and harvest control. It is suitable for trellis training, though trellis trained gojis can exceed 10 to 12 feet in height and up to a 6 foot spread. The trees can be pruned for improved shape without altering flowering or fruit production. Pruning the lateral canes will significantly increase branching.
Each cane produces dozens of flowers, growing in clusters. The flowers are small and range in color from lavendar to pale purple (upper right). They are slightly frangrant. Blossiming occurs from June through September. Each flower produces a reddish-orange ellipsoid berry approximately 1/2 inch long (right). The berries contain tiny, yellow seeds (high in fiber) with counts between 10 and 60 depending on cultivation. The berries ripen from July through October, growing sweeter the longer they are left on the tree. Goji berry trees are moderately drought tolerant once established, but needs regular watering after transplant and to improve fruit production. It is a full sun plant, pest and disease resistant.
The berries (left) can be eaten fresh, but are best when dried (lower right). Dried berries are usually cooked prior to eating. Traditionally, they are used in rice congee or almond jelly. They make an excellent addition to many pork and chicken dishes and act as a wonderful compliment to wild yams and licorice root. Several wines, including some grape wines, utilize goji berries as well. It's most notable use in Chinese culture is in the production of a tonic soup or tea combining goji berry and jujube to help with sore throats and improve sleep.
Basic medical research is underway to examine the exact physiological benefits of goji, though currently no such research is officially listed or accepted as scientific support for claims regarding its use in alternative medicine. There is little to no doubt that goji berry is a healthful food with many important qualities including its high vitamin C and beta-caratene
content. Because, at Sierra View, we want to provide our customers with the latest and most accurate information available, we encourage individuals who take blood thinners or use diabetic medications to seek advice from a licensed medical professional before eating goji berries or using goji products. Recent research shows that goji berry can have serious affects on medications related to diabetes and heart disease. Be healthy and make an informed decision!
Many health food stores sell dried goji berries and goji products. These products are expensive in most cases with the dried berries ranging in price from $10 to $20 per pound. With backyard-to-table gardening, this "superfruit" can be available to you year round, as the berries can be preserved both dried and frozen. Each goji berry tree sleeve at Sierra View costs $18.00. They are also available in 5 gallon containers for $29.99.
Pakistan Fruiting Mulberry Morus alba 'Pakistan': Long (3 inches), firm, red to black, sweet fruit. Non-staining juice. Month-long early summer harvest. Fruit used fresh and for pies, jams and jellies. Large, vigorous, disease-resistant tree.