Jujube: Apple of the desert
Muhammad Ahmad and M. Fakharuddein Razi
Jujube or ber is cultivated all over the drier parts of the Indo-Pak subcontinent for its fresh fruits, which are rich in vitamins and minerals, because of this reason jujube is called “apple of the desert”.
It can be successfully cultivated even in the most marginal ecosystems of the subtropics and tropics. Since its cultivation requires little care, the fruit tree is suitable to rehabilitate extensive resource poor areas; it also exists in wild groves which are wide spread in the warmer parts of Pakistan. As well as the fruits, the wild trees also yield timber of marginal value, brushwood, fuel wood, and leaf fodder. The tree propagates freely and greatly resists recurrent drought. It is thus an important tree suitable for irrigation into agro-forestry systems of warm desert eco-regions. The tree can help in economic sustenance and insurance against ecological degradation.
Since ber trees can endure extreme degrees of stress from drought, salinity and even water logging in the soil, they are considered suitable for planting on degraded and marginal lands. Plantations are also profitable on such lands and can be an insurance aberrant weather. Its powerful root system helps in conservation of the soil. Some of the wild cultivars of jujube are moderately durable and are used for a variety of purposes such as house posts, agricultural implements, tent pegs, cart wheels and spokes.
Jujube trees are considered amongst the best for rearing lac insects. A lac yield of 1.5 kg per tree per year has been obtained by collection during October-November in Cholistan Desert, Pakistan. By using 6-8, 2-3 m long shoots of 2-3 cm thickness on a stump for inoculation by lac insects, a yield of 3-6 kg of raw lac can be obtained in 3 years. However, if used for lac fruit production is not viable. Jujube tree are commonly used as live fencing. Cut branches of ber are often used as a protective fencing material around agricultural fields.
Fruits of jujube are commonly used in Pakistani households as fresh fruit and dehydrated for later use. However, the fruits of wild seedlings trees are mostly used for sun drying. Its powder is used for baking and to prepare jam and a traditional loaf. The mature green fruits are also occasionally used in Pakistan to prepare chutney, pickle and jelly. Powder is made from the ripe fruits. Various confectionary recipes such as cake, butter pudding and sweet pickle have been recommended from dried jujube fruits. Some times fruits are dried and powdered to prepare a product called “churan”. This is currently localized and could possibly become more popular if standard products are developed.
Very good quality preserves and candy can be prepared from hard mature ber fruits for which techniques have been standardized in Pakistan. Candy seems to be more popular than preserve, perhaps because it is more easily handled and stored. Its demand could grow further as sweetened dehydrated fruit. Pulp obtained from fully ripe jujube fruits can be used for the preparation of ready to serve beverage and squash. Ready to serve beverage prepared on a small scale is already popular in some location of Pakistan. The product needs to be further developed to make it more acceptable if a sustained supply and product quality are ensured.
A number of products such as murabba (preserve), candy and dehydrated jujube are prepared from the fruits. Fully ripe fruits are dried to prepare a dehydrated product similar to dry dates. The fruits of wild and cultivated ber are dried in the sun. The dried fruit is relished as a dessert. Fruits after sun drying are also consumed during off season. Improved methods to prepare good quality dehydrated products have been developed in Pakistan. The dehydrated product has already generated a good demand when prepared from selected cultivars/types by standard methods. The demand is expected to rise and become more popular when dehydrated fruit with out added sugar is preferred.
Dried fruit of jujube contains several volatile substances, which have significance in impairing the typical flavor to the fruit. Mature jujube fruits also contain polyphenols and rutin. It was observed that the contents were about ten times higher than any other fruit. The ripe fruit is cooling, digestive, aphrodisiac, tonic, laxative, invigorating and removes biliousness, burning sensation, thirst, vomiting and blood impurities. The dried fruit is laxative and an appetizer, and allays thirst. The acrid and sweetish seeds are also a tonic and aphrodisiac and cure eye diseases, cough, lessen expectoration, asthma, thirst, burning sensation and leucorrhoea. Ripe fruit is useful in fever, wounds and ulcers. The astringent seed is a tonic for the heart and brain and allays thirst. Fruits have been used for dying silk and used for fish stupefying.
Chinese jujube cultivar seeds are known to contain a number of saponins, which have medicinal value. Oleic acid, being one of the essential fatty acid for the human beings, is present in the fatty oil of the seeds of Chinese jujube cultivar. It has been recognized to possess a mild sedative activity and is used in treatment of insomnia. Sour jujube fruit is ground to powder and used to cure hypertension and stomach troubles.
Jujube is richer than apple in protein, phosphorous, calcium, carotene and vitamin C and excels oranges in phosphorous, iron, vitamin C, calorific value and carbohydrates. Ripe fruits provide 20.9 K. calories per 100 g pulp. According to WHO/FAO recommendation, the daily diet of an adult should contain 30 mg ascorbic acid. This requirement can be met by including 3 fruits in the daily diet. The highest ascorbic acid content was found in the middle part and acidity in the lower part of the fruit. Fruit also contains about 70 I.U of vitamin A in 100 g of pulp. Chinese jujube cultivar fruits were found to be generally richer in minerals than the stone fruits. Vitamin C and B-complex contents were found at the highest at early ripening stage.
Total Soluble Salts (Brix)
Reducing sugars (%)
Non- Reducing sugars (%)
Total Ash (%)
Ascorbic acid (mg/100g)
Source: Fruit production in Pakistan, 2007
Stem and root bark of jujube contains alkaloids. It is also used for the treatment of diarrhoea, menorrhagia, bilious sickness, scabies and boils. The ash of its wood has been used to treat snakebite. The roots of jujube contain pentacycalic triterpenoid and zizibernalic acid, which are used in the treatment of fever and wounds.
It is also used to relieve toothache. It reduces intensity of obesity in diabetes patients, and overweight people. It has anti-inflammatory activity. The extract of stem bark of jujube has antifungal activities. Some cultivars of jujube are used for birth control purposes.
Jujube leaves are valuable source of fodder as it is very nutritious. It is a popular fodder tree in arid regions since it grows and regenerates very quickly even under stress conditions. A jujube tree yielded 3-5 kg green leaf fodder. Palatability of air dried leaves for both sheep and goat is higher than that of the leaves of Jand, which is a prominent fodder tree of the Thar Desert. Pruning of jujube gives fuel wood. A six year old tree of jujube produces an above ground biomass of 11.6 kg in arid North West Pakistan. A typical tree yields 8-10 kg air dried fuel wood from annual pruning. Air dry biomass of 2 kg/plant was produced two years after planting under rain-fed conditions at Dagarkotly in Pakistan. Thus the fuel wood yield from pruned wood varies from 1-5 tons per hectare depending upon spacing, pruning severity and agro-climatic conditions.
Leaves are anti-helmintic and useful in stomatitis, gum bleeding, wound, syphilitic ulcers, asthma and liver complaints. The leaf decoction is used as a hipbath for joint pains and as a gargle for sore throat and bleeding gums. Leaves are also used for the treatment of abscesses, furuncles and swollen eyes. Leaves exert inhibitory effects on the function of the central nervous system. Jujube leaves mixed with water have been used as hair shampoo. Leaves of jujube were found to contain 1.02 mg vitamin C per 100 g of pulp. The leaves also contain tartaric acid. Leaves are also rich source of protein and minerals. Composition of jujube leaves on dry weight basis is given below:
Nitrogen Free Extract
Source: Fruit production in Pakistan, 2007.