Anybody who knows me will tell you how much I love the Michigan Fall. I go on and on about apple picking and Cider Mills, and the wonderful weather and colors.
But this year, maybe because its a special anniversary, and I miss a little bit my hometown, I’ve been thinking a lot also about the Italian fall colors and fruits. A wonderful variety of reds, purples and browns in figs, pomegranates, chestnuts, and , of course …the jujube broth!
First of all, for those who are curious to know what jujube broth is (in Italian brodo di giuggiole), this expression has two main meanings. The first one is referred to its literal meaning. Jujube both is a liquor made with jujube fruits.
The second one is a metaphor to say one person is happy.
Where are jujubes in the USA?
Wait! Did you say jujubes? You might wonder what they are and in fact, these are the only ones I’ve never seen in the USA yet. Although I’m aware that some trees are raised on the West Coast of California, I’ve never found any fresh jujube fruits in our local groceries!
Which is such a disgrace because jujubes are possibly my most favorite fruit in the entire world.
In fact, jujube trees are abundantly spread in my hometown region, Veneto,, growing freely in backyards and parks. A jujube tree is like a little gold mine within reach. The Veneto region is located in the North-East part of Italy.
What the jujube!
Jujube fruits, or red dates, are in Italy typically the size and shape of an olive and go from a green color to a reddish brown when ripe. Slightly different varieties can be found in South Asia, China, Madagascar and the Caribbean. They have a typical tangy flavor when fresh, similar to a sweet-tart apple. Some people like them very ripe, almost naturally dried on the tree, when they become a little wrinkly and shiny, like dried plums.
But my favorite is the just-picked jujube fruit, fresh and juicy. And super crunchy!
WARNING: Be careful because they hide a pointy seed.
In Italy, they are usually ready for picking toward the end of September.
Initially, the jujube tree was domesticated in South Asia by 9000 BCE, well known by ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians. Talked about by Herodotus. Jujube fruits and seeds are used in Chinese and Korean traditional medicine, where they are believed to alleviate stress and have antioxidant, immune-stimulant, and wound healing properties.
Who knew that the childhood snack I am so fond of, was adding to my diet so many vitamins and minerals? One thing is for sure: when you start eating one, it’s quite impossible not to go for a second, a third ….you would never stop! It’s just addicting, and so healthy at the same time!
It’s hard to believe that my own children, being born in the USA, and being September a time of the year when we usually don’t travel due to school commitments, have never even tried one. But I made a point to look harder for them this fall! I’ll keep you posted if I find them….
Social Media SOS
You might see me driving all around the Detroit area, looking for fresh jujube fruits in each and every grocery store! The Asian stores usually carry the dry packaged version. But I’ve already launched a Social Media SOS, and friends close and far are coming to the rescue! Some of my beloved childhood friends are already looking into shipping “giuggiole sotto grappa”, which are canned in the typical northern Italian spirit called Grappa! As you can see giuggiole or jujube fruits are a big deal in my hometown, and nobody would want to live without them and part from the whole Fall tradition. After all, how could an American live without donuts and cider in September?
Fun – word – fact! Jujube broth!
While here in the USA, jujube has given its name to a pretty popular kind of candy, Italians have found their own way to make this fruit popular. How strange we have made a delicious liquor out of it!
We call it jujube broth and it’s so good it’s even entered the official Italian idioms, for it’s so good it melts you. If an Italian says she/he’s gone into a jujube broth (brodo di giuggiole), don’t think they took a bath in the fancy liquor. It just means they’re feeling very happy about something – in a relaxed and a little silly way. They are melting with happiness!
The jujube festival in Veneto, the perfect place where to taste jujube broth
So if you were –so lucky- to be traveling to Italy in this time of the year (my favorite!!!), remember to look for this delicacy. You’ll find them most probably in any street festival or market. But if you want to try them fresh you need to be quick because once they are picked they are going to last a week or so before they start drying.
If you are staying in the countryside, especially in northern Italy, chances are, there’s gonna be a tree in the backyard, so watch out and just help yourself!
As a matter of fact, you can even plan a theme weekend, as the medieval town of Arquà Petrarca, in Veneto, only one hour away from Venice, hosts the first week of October a Jujube Festival. The famous liquor is produced exactly here and sold by local vendors. There’s nothing better than walking in this charming little Borgo, where lived the famous Italian poet and literatus Francesco Petrarca, and browse the different products, chocolates, liquor and so on, right where it’s made, in a Medieval renaissance setting.
Other recipes made with jujubes are: giuggiole rolls, candied jujubes, jujube compote and jams.
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