A red date, also known as a jujube, is a prune-like fruit. Despite its common name, a jujube is not actually a date. Thick skinned and meaty with two seeds inside, a jujube is often described as a cross between a prune and an apple. From a family of Chinese plants called the ziziphus, this fruit is cultivated in many countries across the globe, particularly south and central China and India.
The tree on which a red date grows is fairly durable and can generally withstand rough weather. The trees are leafy and the leaves fall off after yellowing in the autumn. Hot summers and plenty of water are required for a jujube fruit’s ideal sweetness. In fact, jujubes seem to thrive in extremely hot weather, provided there is an ample water supply.
The actual red date sizes range from approximately one to two inches (2.5cm to 5cm) wide, and the fruits are fairly rounded in shape. The skin is edible and reflects a deep reddish orange color with yellow splotches. After it's ripened, the red date begins to wrinkle and eventually turn into what appears to be a very large raisin. The skin also darkens into a murky brown or maroon hue. The entire ripening process usually takes a couple of months, though the last leg of the process — the wrinkling and browning of the fruit — takes roughly one week.
The red dates may be left to dry on the tree, or they may be taken off of the tree. Once dried, they are ready to eat. In many regions, the seeds are removed before consumers receive the fruits.
There are many culinary uses for red dates. They may be eaten from the hand as a snack, or as an accompaniment to tea. Prepackaged or fresh from the farm or produce market, jujubes are small enough to carry around.
The fruits may also be juiced or made into wine, syrup, or jelly. Jujubes also make for a sticky, thickly sweet topping or filling for a unique pastry or dessert. Due to their substantial, fleshy qualities, once they are blended or pureed in a food processor, a gooey concoction is made. Simmering or steaming them beforehand is suggested, as the dryness of the red date can cause difficulties with the blades in a fruit processor.
In many countries, the red date is used for medicinal purposes, as well. They are not only believed to alleviate stress, but also to promote romance and fertility. Jujube scents may also be used in potpourri packets. It is also worth mentioning that these jujubes are not related to the candy jujubes.