PERTH Hills, Gidgegannup and York growers are producing a popular Asian fruit, which can be eaten fresh, dried or processed and used in confectionery such as breads, cake, candy, compote and jam.
Called jujubes or Chinese dates the small apple-like fruits are now in season and available until about the end of April at speciality fruit and vegetable retailers and some farmers markets.
The Department of Agriculture and Food website said jujubes were a new horticultural industry in Western Australia and that the Australian industry had the potential to be a new profitable agricultural business to meet the requirements of domestic and overseas markets.
Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston said jujubes were one of the most popular fruits in Asia and the Middle East and that Western Australia was shaping up as the nation’s leading producer of jujubes, catering to growing local demand for the popular Asian delicacy.
Mr Baston said WA’s jujube industry was small but expanding with about 40 growers producing fruit from about 12,500 trees on 20ha.
“Almost 3000 new trees are being planted each year which should significantly boost supplies of the fruit in years to come,” he said.
He said the quantity of fruit produced was still small as the bulk of the WA’s commercial orchards were less than five years old and many trees had yet to produce fruit.
The jujube’s drought and salinity tolerance and multiple uses meant it had potential for many areas of WA.
He said the department had embarked on a two-year project to help build the fledgling industry.
The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation funds the project with support from the Western Australian Jujube Growers’ Association.
“The State Government, through DAFWA, is working with the industry on developing its marketing strategies and opportunities, and building a robust industry with options to deliver the full range of jujube products – fresh, dried and processed fruit.’’
The department’s website said the Chinese jujube (Ziziphus jujuba Mill.) was one of the most important fruit crops in China and had been commonly used as a traditional Chinese medicine and food for thousands of years.
“The jujube is widely grown in China with cultivation records going back more than 3000 years and can also be found in neighbouring countries,’’ the website said.
“The jujube is a medium-sized tree, growing 7-10m high.
“The tree has shiny deciduous foliage and produces a fruit that is known as a drupe.
“The fruit varies in size depending on the cultivar, and it has a thin, dark red skin surrounding a sweet, white flesh. “The fruit is very nutritious with potassium, phosphorus, calcium and manganese being the major mineral components, as well as iron, sodium, zinc and copper.
“The jujube is a rich source of vitamin C and B-complex.
“The antioxidant capacity of fresh jujube is also relatively high compared with other vegetables and fruits.’’
By Anita McInnes