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Bidara fruits vary in size and shape, depending on the specific variety, and generally average 2.5 to 4.5 centimeters in diameter. The fruits range in shape from round to oblong and have a bulbous appearance with blunt, curved ends. Bidara fruits are consumed in their green, semi-unripe stage and yellow-orange ripe state. Green Bidara fruits have firm, smooth, glossy, taut skin with a thin but tough nature. In this stage, the flesh is crisp, white with pale green tinges, light, and aqueous. As the jujubes ripen, their green hue transitions into a yellow, orange-yellow, to red-brown hue. The flesh becomes drier and develops a fluffy, spongy, chewy, and soft consistency, sometimes bordering on mealy. The surface also becomes wrinkled, and the entire fruit will feel lighter as the juice dissipates from the flesh. The flesh contains a central, dark brown stone filled with 1 to 2 elliptic seeds approximately six millimeters in length. Bidara fruits are preferred in Malaysia in their green state and release a pleasant aroma. Green Bidara fruits are tart, sour, subtly sweet, and slightly astringent with green apple and green guava nuances. The fruits develop a sweeter taste with honeyed, musky, and fruity notes as they ripen.
Bidara fruits are harvested in the spring through fall.
Bidara, botanically classified as Ziziphus mauritiana, is a general descriptor for jujube fruits belonging to the Rhamnaceae family. The small fruits are of the Indian jujube variety, and the name Bidara is a Malaysian term for Indian jujubes. There are several varieties of Indian jujubes generally sold under Bidara, and the fruits are sometimes known as Buah Bidara, Duan Bidara, Malaysian Jujube, and Malay jujube. It is important to note that two main types of jujubes grown in Southeast Asia may be interchangeably sold in Malaysian markets: Indian jujubes and Chinese jujubes. Indian jujubes are more tropical than Chinese jujubes, which are native to temperate climates, and Indian jujubes are also less sweet and preferred in their green, glossy, and sour state. Bidara primarily refers to Indian jujubes in commercial markets, and the fruits grow on shrubs to small trees reaching 1 to 12 meters in height. Bidara fruits are seasonal in Malaysian markets, and the jujubes are sold fresh or dried, depending on the time of the season and preference. Bidara fruits have a versatile nature and flavor, complementing sweet or savory preparations.
Bidara is a source of manganese to develop connective tissues, vitamin C to boost the immune system, fiber to regulate the digestive tract, and copper to maintain the nervous system. The fruits also provide phosphorus to assist the kidneys in filtering waste, calcium to build strong bones and teeth, potassium to balance fluid levels within the body, and other nutrients, including thiamin, iron, magnesium, zinc, and riboflavin. In Malaysian herbal medicine, Bidara is used to help with digestive issues, lower stress, and reduce fevers. The fruits are also rubbed on cuts and skin irritations.
Bidara fruits, when green and slightly unripe, have a sweet, sour, subtly astringent, and fruity taste suited for fresh preparations. The green fruits are popularly dipped in salt and consumed as a snack, or they can be sprinkled with ground chile peppers, soy sauce, or fish sauce for added flavoring. Bidara can also be chopped and mixed into rojak, a salad side dish comprised of sliced fruits and vegetables in a sweet, sour, and spicy seasoning. Rojak can be served as a stand-alone dish or as a condiment alongside savory meats, rice, and vegetables. In Malaysia, Bidara is often pickled for extended use and used as a tangy topping or blended with sugar and water into a refreshing beverage. Ripe Bidara fruits have a sweeter nature and are cooked in syrup to develop a sweet spread. The fruits can be chopped into oatmeal, congee, or cereal or stirred into trail mix. Bidara can also be simmered into jams, jellies, and thick pastes used for cheese platters and toast. In addition to jams, ripe Bidara is occasionally incorporated into cakes, muffins, and tarts, simmered into curries and soups, or smoked to develop a more complex flavoring for roasted meat dishes. The fruits can also be infused into liqueur or dried and steeped into tea. Bidara pairs well with spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and ginger, lemon juice, coconut water, dried cranberries, nuts including pistachios, almonds, and walnuts, pumpkin seeds, vanilla, fruits such as oranges, persimmons, and pomegranate. Fresh Bidara can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 weeks. Dried Bidara will keep for 6 to 12 months when stored in a cool place away from direct sunlight.
In Malaysia, Bidara leaves are used to cleanse the body in rituals honoring the deceased. The practice of using the leaves arose from Islam and is primarily connected to ruqyah syar’iyyah. Ruqyah is a practice to treat physical and spiritual ailments through reciting verses and incantations. It is thought that the participant will be brought closer to Allah in the practice, and incorporating Bidara leaves will act as a cleansing or purifying agent of the body and soul. Bidara leaves are often pounded and immersed in water to infuse their contents into the liquid. The nutrient-soaked water is later used for baths and is believed to clean the physical and spiritual. These baths are used for the living and can be incorporated into rituals at any point in life. Bidara leaves are also dipped in water and used to clean deceased bodies as a ritual to purify and keep the bodies from quickly decaying.
Bidara is a general descriptor for Indian jujube varieties sold in Malaysia. Indian jujubes are thought to be native to Southeast Asia and have been growing wild since ancient times. Jujubes were selected for cultivation among ancient civilizations, and the species was bred for improved flavoring, appearance, and texture in the fruits over time. Indian jujubes were spread throughout Southeast Asia through migrating peoples carrying the fruits along trade routes, and the seeds from the fruits were often discarded or planted along roadways and in villages as a food source. It is unknown when jujubes, known as Bidara in Malay, were introduced into Malaysia, but the trees adapted well to the climate of Northern Malaysia. Today, Bidara thrives in tropical to subtropical regions of Malaysia and is a hardy species able to grow in various soil types. Indian jujubes, in general, are found throughout Southeast and East Asia and are known under many regional names. The fresh fruits are typically sold in local markets and directly from growers. They are also foraged from wild trees and planted in home gardens throughout Malaysia.