Unjustly considered a minor fruit, jujube is a small drupe characterized by a sweet taste , so much so that it is called a Chinese date. It is precisely in China that this beautiful tree originates, which we can easily grow also in Italy. The applications of the fruit are different: jujubes can be dried, candied, in jam, even the famous jujube broth.
As a plant, the jujube tree is a beautiful tree drought resistant and particularly suitable for poor soils .
It is therefore worth rediscovering this species of fruit and experiment with growing jujubes in mixed gardens or orchards. In this article we will see the most important characteristics of the tree, how and when to plant it and discover together how it is cultivated, between pruning, other operations and harvesting.
The tree: characteristics and origins
The jujube belongs to the family rhamnaceae and inside of it, to the kind Ziziph , which includes about 170 species. Best known as jujuba is Ziziphus jujuba , a plant that does not reach notable heights, remains quite contained, at most it reaches 6 meters. On the other hand, it can be very perennial: in northern China, there are specimens of ancient jujubes.
Roots of this plant are very vigorous and developed , able to fetch water very deep in the ground. The plant has a remarkable sucking ability which makes it capable, if not controlled, of invading the surrounding space very quickly.
The trunk seems twisted with thorny branches and irregularly arranged, with a rather wrinkled red-brown bark. The leaves are deciduous, small, shiny and oval in shape. The flowers are still small and greenish in color. They appear gradually between June and July and are appreciated by bees. The jujube fruit when they reach full maturity in September-October, are similar to drupes similar in size to olives, even larger in some varieties. The skin darkens when ripe and the fruit takes on a slightly wrinkled consistency, similar to dates, while the flesh of the jujube can be yellowish-white or yellowish-brown in color and has a sweet taste.
The jujube tree is a plant of very ancient origin of which there are fossil finds dating back 24 million years, although its cultivation and use date back “only” 7700 years. The country of origin of jujube is China, it is not for nothing that it is also called » chinese date “. It is considered a minor fruit in China and is among the top 5 most popular fruit trees, along with peach, apricot, plum, and chestnut. From China, the jujube spread through the Silk Road to other countries and continents, including Europe, where cultivation began at the end of the Augustan Empire, such as Pliny the Elder and Columella the attest in their writings.
Until now the jujube plant in Italy was grown mainly for hobbyists , although we begin to find more extensive cultures linked to particular recipes of the territories. For example, in Arquà Petrarca, a beautiful village located in the province of Padua, in the Euganean Hills, the Jujube Festival is celebrated every year. , an exhibition-market that aims to promote the culture and the products that can be obtained from it. Among them is the famous jujube broth used as a metaphor for happiness, so much so that it is now part of common language.
Given the ornamental value of this plant, we can also think of introducing a specimen in the garden for this main purpose, or put some plants in the mixed garden, thus expanding the range of fruits that can be harvested between September and October.
variety of jelly beans
In addition to the already mentioned species Zisiphus jujuba, other well-known entities are the Indian jujube or ber, Z.mauritiana sour jujube, Z. acidojujuba and others. within the species Zjujuba we find varieties with small fruits like an olive and varieties with larger fruits weighing about 30 to 40 grams, and varieties with long or round fruits .
ideal climate and terrain
Climate . jujube likes warm temperate climates with long summers. However, in the middle of winter, it is able to withstand temperatures down to -15°C, (thixag_12) in a state of vegetative rest. Also your Wind resistance it is discreet, so much so that in some Asian countries it is mainly chosen from among the species suitable for composing windbreaks.
Usually I . The ideal soil for growing jujubes is Deep to support the natural development of the root system, well-drained and of medium texture . However, this plant is also very capable of improve infertile soils , where other species struggle, giving good production. The important thing is that these soils are not too clayey and compact, otherwise there is a risk of root suffocation, and they should not be strongly alkaline either. If in doubt, before planting, it may be useful to measure the pH of the water extract of the soil with a simple litmus paper.
How and when to plant a jujube tree
Once the place where to plant the jujube has been chosen, it is necessary to obtain the seedling, choosing varieties and rootstocks, or multiply it by cuttings.
Period in which the jujube tree is planted it is, as with many other plants in the garden, the period of vegetative stagnation. Ideally, switch to end of winter (February), where the winter is not too cold can also be done november .
Rootstocks . the jujube tree it is usually grafted on franks, or on seed-propagated rootstock. This usually results in more vigor in the plants, but the jujube does not grow as quickly and vigorously and is still quite small. The jujube itself in rhizome form could be interesting for its deep root system.
For planting jujube we take silt-grafted plants or, if you really want to propagate the plant on your own, by obtaining a clone of a specimen you particularly like, you can make semi-hardwood cuttings . In this case, it is necessary to take small branches 10-15 cm long and put them to take root in a soil that contains sand, choosing the period between June and July to carry out this operation. In this case, however, the wait is much longer to plant in the last spot.
If you start with grafted plants, for planting proceed as for other fruit species: a hole is dug at the chosen location , taking care to do so to the correct depth. Ideally it is necessary to move a volume of earth with the approximate dimensions of 70 x 70 x 70 cm, so as to soften a good amount of soil available for the roots which, as we have seen, tend to grow deep.
When digging, it is very useful to be careful accumulate the first layers of soil separately from the deeper layers , to put them back in the same order, so as not to alter the soil stratigraphy too much. In the most superficial layers, those corresponding to the first 30 cm, a good dose of compost or mature manure as basic soil conditioners. The plant is brought directly into the hole before completing the backfilling with earth, and the level of the neck should remain unchanged.
planting rooms Large planting rooms are recommended, with distances of 5-6 meters between plants, whether other jujubes or other fruit species. Large planting distances allow for good illumination of foliage, better air circulation and less risk of disease favored by the stagnation of moist air.
After planting the jujube we see how to cultivate it, if in its first period of life the plant requires more attention, once it is started it is a tree that is very easy to care for and particularly resistant to climatic hazards and pathogens . For this reason, it is a suitable crop for organic cultivation. Even in pruning, the work to be done is not important, because the plant grows slowly, only the sucking activity of this species can disturb the grower a little, to keep the base of the trunk tidy.
In specialized cultivation, jujubes are grown in pots or spindles, while in Italy the most common form of cultivation is the sapling. . The reproductive phase lasts a few years longer than most common fruit trees, given the slow growth of this species.
Although the jujube is a drought resistant species because of its remarkable radical development, at least in the first years after planting, it benefits greatly from irrigation , accelerating its growth and entry into production. In the event that several plants are grown in rows, the presence of a drip irrigation system, which distributes water slowly and without waste, is therefore useful.
In addition to the basic soil amendments that will be distributed to the plant, every year we can add manure in the area under the foliage, as well as rock flour, seaweed, wood ash, also depending on the type of soil we have and the deficiencies of certain elements, found through soil analyzes carried out by specialized laboratories.
Soil management and mulching
When plants are still small, mulch helps them to avoid weed competition for water and nutrients. The easiest option, which also provides a beautiful natural effect, is to surround the plants with circles of straw at its base, in layers at least 10 cm thick and with a radius of at least 50-70 cm. instead of straw cut grass and left to wither for a few days, the leaves or wood shavings are also suitable. With mulch, the soil retains moisture longer, thus requiring less frequent watering.
The soil of the jujube orchard can then be maintained regularly with controlled grassing. periodically mow the grass.
Although in our regions there are no particularly harmful adversities in jujube especially when grown at the amateur level, in specialized cultivation, especially in the territories of origin, diseases such as powdery mildew can occur and Sigatoka . The first pathology manifests itself, as in other species, in the form of whitish efflorescences and a slightly powdery consistency, the second – rounded yellow-brown spots.
To prevent these fungal diseases, a decoction of equisetum, which has a generic strengthening action, can be applied to the plants as a preventive measure and, in any case, powdery mildew can be treated with sprays of sodium bicarbonate dissolved in some water.
The jujube tree, although a hardy species, can be attacked by the fruit fly It’s the Ceratitis capitata which is best countered by setting up Tap Trap food traps in time.