Although the prolonged hot weather in Southern California translated into a continued late summer harvest, with heirloom tomatoes, eggplants and peaches still available at our farmer's markets, early fall fruits are also in prime season now. This week at the farmer's market you'll find seasonal specialties such as pomegranates and grapes, as well as the unusual jujube fruit, a sweet golf ball-sized Asian apple varietal with a styrofoam-like crunch and a snappy, paper-thin exterior.
You eat a jujube like a standard apple, too - -in other words, just bite into it, skin and
all. Lighter varieties are juicier, but the darker the jujube, the sweeter its taste. There is one large seed in the middle much like a date; In fact, in many cultures the fruit is referred to as a date, depending on the origin country (Chinese date, Indian date, etc.).
Pomegranates are little more difficult to eat, but just as rewarding. To extract the ruby red seeds, local vendor Sweet Tree Farms suggests cutting the entire fruit into quarters and submerging and scrubbing the pieces under water until the pulp floats to the surface and the seeds sink. Our Sweet Tree Farms rep also hinted at a beef-based chile relleno-type recipe his grandmother prepares with the pomegranate seeds, but her recipe is a secret (natch). We suspect it's her version of chiles en nogada, a poblano chili stuffed with meat and fruit, covered in walnut sauce, and topped generously with pomegranate seeds.
While it's well known that pomegranates offer a host of antioxidants and are a central component of many non-western health systems such as Ayurvedic medicine, some studies suggest that jujubes also possess health benefits. Some cultures use the jujube (especially in supplement form) to treat anxiety and insomnia, as well as liver problems. Whatever the case, the idea that eating a jujube for health benefits exists is beyond exciting for a candy nut like me.
And, as we head into the fall and the onset of cool nights blissfully returns, Yang Farms suggests using dried jujubes to make sweet (non-caffeinated) tea. In China the jujube is also used for making wine, and that will certainly keep you warm this fall, too.