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Sherwood jujubes are one of the largest jujube varieties, averaging 3 to 5 centimeters in length, and have an oblong to oval shape. The skin is taut, smooth, glossy, and thick, transitioning from green when young, to yellow-green, to solid red-brown when ripe. As the fruit reaches full maturity, it will also begin to wrinkle, resembling a dried date. Underneath the surface, the flesh is crisp, grainy, and aqueous with a snap-like quality similar to an apple. There is also a small, inedible pit found in the center of the pale green to white flesh. Sherwood jujubes are crunchy and chewy, emitting a sweet, subtly tart flavor with floral and fruity notes reminiscent of apples.
Sherwood jujubes are available in the mid-fall through winter.
Sherwood jujubes, botanically classified as Ziziphus jujuba, are an American variety discovered as a chance seedling belonging to the Rhamnaceae family. The drupes were found on a large, deciduous tree in Louisiana and were selected as a new variety for their crisp, juicy texture and sweet, apple-like flavor. Sherwood jujubes are one of the latest-ripening varieties found in the United States, able to withstand extreme temperatures, and are a rare cultivar primarily grown in home gardens and small farms. The trees reach up to seven meters in height and develop an upright growth habit, which is distinct from other drooping jujube tree varieties. Sherwood jujube trees also produce fewer thorns, making them favorable among growers when harvesting the fruits. Sherwood jujubes are somewhat challenging to find, and the oblong fruits are reserved for farmer’s markets, consumed in both fresh and cooked preparations.
Sherwood jujubes are an excellent source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that strengthens the immune system, boosts collagen production, and reduces inflammation. The fruits are also a good source of fiber to regulate the digestive tract and contain minerals such as potassium to regulate fluid levels, zinc to fight off viruses, and phosphorus to help grow bones.
Sherwood jujubes are best suited for fresh applications as their crisp, sweet flesh is showcased when consumed straight, out-of-hand. The skin and flesh are edible, discarding the central pit, and the fruits can be eaten as a crisp snack, chopped into green and fruit salads, sliced and layered into sandwiches, blended into smoothies, or juiced and used to flavor beverages. In addition to fresh preparations, Sherwood jujubes can be cooked into honey, jams, and syrups, made into a paste for fillings in cakes, muffins, and beignets, candied, smoked for a savory-sweet flavor, preserved in syrup, or incorporated into stews, porridges, and rice dishes. The fruits are also commonly dried until they have a sticky, date-like consistency and are used in baked goods, teas, sauces, and soups. Sherwood jujubes pair well with spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg, honey, brown sugar, chocolate, nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and pecans, mushrooms, rice, and meats such as poultry, fish, and pork. Fresh, whole Sherwood jujubes can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 weeks. Dried jujubes will keep 6 to 12 months when stored in a cool place away from direct sunlight.
Sherwood Akin was an active member of the North American Fruit Explorers, or NAFEX, a network of professional and amateur gardeners, breeders, and researchers throughout the United States and Canada. NAFEX was founded in 1967 by a small group of gardeners and was established to connect individuals with a love for cultivating fruit. In the modern-day, the group has grown to over 3,000 members, and the organization leads annual meetings, discussions of fruit-based subjects through social media platforms, and freely shares in-depth cultivation techniques to preserve unusual varieties. NAFEX also releases an online quarterly publication known as Pomona, a newsletter written by members of the organization sharing personal stories, research, and findings to connect members of the group. NAFEX members continue to cultivate unique varieties, including Sherwood jujubes, to prevent the cultivars from disappearing completely.
Sherwood jujubes were discovered as a chance seedling sometime during the 20th century in Sibley, Louisiana. The tree was a part of grower Sherwood Akin’s collection of fruit trees on his personal property. Mr. Akin began growing trees on his plantation in his retirement and developed a local business known as Sherwood’s Greenhouses, sharing his love and knowledge of plants with visitors. Once Akin discovered the new jujubes, the variety was propagated, tested, and shared with other growers, eventually receiving a plant patent. Akin continued cultivating Sherwood jujubes until his death in 2007. Today Sherwood jujubes are found as a specialty variety in home gardens throughout the United States.
Recipes that include Sherwood Jujube. One is easiest, three is harder.