I have always defended seasonality and the calendar of fruits and vegetables, and I love that each season has different flavors. For me, the end of summer is marked by jínjol or azufeifa, a fruit little known in other regions very typical of the Mediterranean coast.
In the field where I have spent all the summers of my life we have always had several jinjoleros, and the children eagerly watched their still green fruits waiting for them to ripen. Already at the end of the summer they turn red, offering a delicious snack to sweeten us the end of the summer season.
The jinjolero, a beautiful tree full of thorns
These fruits come from jinjolero tree (Zizyphus jujuba), a deciduous species that does not usually exceed 8 meters in height and that develops with numerous branches full of thorns, with small, oval leaves.
It is a species from Southeast Asia that grows easily in hot climates, surviving the low rainfall typical of the Levantine lands. In the Vega del Río Segura there was a tree very typical of the garden since it hardly requires care.
Despite the fact that its cultivation has been reduced, the jinjolero is a tree that continues to be common in the Murcian garden and in agricultural areas such as the Cartagena countryside, as well as in other nearby regions such as the Valencia Community, eastern Andalusia or in Balearic Islands.
Sometimes the smallest trees do not reach a meter and a half in height but they are also capable of offering a good harvest of fruits. The wild variety (Zyziphus lotus) that still grows on many roads is distinguished by having a squat scrub profile.
A sweet and healthy fruit
The fruit of the jinjolero, jínjol itself – also known as jujube, gínjol or jujuba, among others – has a shape similar to the olive, with a size that can vary from 2 to 6 centimeters in length. Have globular shape with a small bone inside.
When it is still maturing, it is a greenish-yellow color that turns red until it becomes a beautiful garnet hue. Once fully mature it begins to wrinkle before falling from the tree, and is a tempting treat for insects and birds.
The jínjoles can be eaten when they still have green streaks, with a firm texture. The skin is very thin and crackles when you bite them, revealing their yellowish green, sweet and mealy meat. The more ripe the fruit is, the more tender and sweet it is.
Gastronomic properties and uses
It is a fruit rich in sugars, tannins and mucilages, with a remarkable amount of vitamin C. The jínjol is therefore a nutritious and energetic fruit, although not too caloric. It also has beneficial properties for the body, which is why it has traditionally been used as a raw material for various home remedies.
The bark and leaves have been used to make astringent preparations while the fruit can have laxative effects. The remedies have also been very popular to treat respiratory conditions, pharyngitis, eczema and small external wounds.
Gastronomically jínjoles are normally consumed natural, more or less mature, as a snack or small treat especially enjoyed by children. In countries like Lebanon or Jordan it is also eaten as an aperitif or even as a dessert after meals, while in others such as China or Korea it is used to prepare sweet preserves, wines or vinegars.
In our country, jínjoles have been used as a base to make homemade liqueurs handcrafted. To do this, you have to wait until you have a good quantity of dried fruits, which are put into bottles and covered with some sweet alcohol, such as anise. They are usually left to marinate for weeks or months so that the flavor of jínjol can stand out.
For me the jínjoles are another indication that the end of summer is coming. In warm and dry Murcia, the first fruits ripen before reaching September, just in time for the traditional fair that takes place in the capital of the Region. Even today they are still sold in typical paper cones, delighting children and adults.
I have always enjoyed very fresh jínjoles, collecting them in the middle of a walk in the field, but lately I like to use them too as an ingredient in sweets and desserts. It can be used like any other fruit, simply by chopping it and adding it to, for example, a sponge cake.
Did you know this fruit? What is the name given to the jínjol in your regions?
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