Jujube was domesticated in South Asia by 9000 BCE. Over 400 cultivars have been selected.
The tree tolerates a wide range of temperatures and rainfall, though it requires hot summers and sufficient water for acceptable fruiting. Unlike most of the other species in the genus, it tolerates fairly cold winters, surviving temperatures down to about −15 °C. This enables the jujube to grow in the mountain desert habitats, provided there is access to underground water through the summer. The species Z.zizyphus grows in cooler regions of Asia. Five or more other species of Ziziphus are widely distributed in milder climates to hot deserts of Asia and Africa.
The fruits are used in Chinese and Korean traditional medicine, where they are believed to alleviate stress, and traditionally for antifungal, antibacterial, antiulcer, anti-inflammatory, sedative, antispastic, antifertility/contraception, hypotensive and Antinephritic, cardiotonic, antioxidant, immunostimulant, and wound healing properties. “The jujube-based Australian drink 1-bil avoids making specific stress-related claims, but does suggest drinking 1-bil “when you feel yourself becoming distressed”. The plant may help prevent impairment of hippocampal memory. A controlled clinical trial found the fruits helpful for chronic constipation. In another clinical trial, Zizyphus jujuba was proved to be effective against neonatal jaundie. A leaf extract showed anti-obese activity in rats. In Persian traditional medicine it is used to treat colds and Flu in combination with other herbal medicine.
Ziziphin, a compound in the leaves of the jujube, suppresses the ability to perceive sweet taste in humans. The fruit, being mucilaginous, is very soothing to the throat and decoctions of jujube have often been used in pharmacy to treat sore throats.
Fresh jujube fruits.
Dried jujube fruits, which naturally turn red upon drying.
The freshly harvested as well as the candied dried fruits are often eaten as a snack, or with tea. They are available in either red or black (called hóng zǎo or hēi zǎo, respectively, in Chinese), the latter being smoked to enhance their flavor. In China and Korea, a sweetened tea syrup containing jujube fruits is available in glass jars, and canned jujube tea or jujube tea in the form of teabags is also available. Although not widely available, jujube juice and jujube vinegar are also produced; they are used for making pickles in West Bengal and Bangladesh.
In China, a wine made from jujubes, called hong zao jiu is also produced. Jujubes are sometimes preserved by storing in a jar filled with baijiu (Chinese liquor), which allows them to be kept fresh for a long time, especially through the winter. Such jujubes are called jiu zao. These fruits, often stoned, are also a significant ingredient in a wide variety of Chinese delicacies. In Korea, jujubes are called daechu and are used in teas and samgyetang.
In Lebanon, the fruit is eaten as snacks or alongside a dessert after a meal.
In Persian cuisine, the dried drupes are known as annab, while in neighboring Azerbaijan it is commonly eaten as a snack, and are known as innab. Z. zizyphus grows in norhern Pakistan and is known as Innab, commonly used in the Tibb Unani system of medicine. There seems to be quite a widespred confusion in the common name. The Innab is Z. zizyphus: the local name Ber is not used for Innab. Rather Ber is used for three other cultivated or wild species i.e. Z. spina-christi, Z. mauritiana and Z. nummularia in Pakistan and parts of India and is eaten both fresh and dried. Often the dry fruit (Ber) was used as a padding in leather horse-saddles in parts of Baluchistan in Pakistan. The Arabic names Sidr is used for Ziziphus species other than Z. zizyphus. The most expensive honey in the world is produced from Z. spina-christi in the Hadramaut region of Yemen!
Jujube fruit is called ilanthappazham or badari in Malayalam, ilanthai pazham in Tamil-speaking regions, “Yelchi Hannu” in Kannada and “Regi pandu” in Telugu. Traditionally, the fruits are dried in the sun and the hard nuts are removed. Then, it is pounded with tamarind, red chillies, salt, and jaggery. Small dishes are made from this dough and again dried in the sun, and are referred to as ilanthai vadai. In some parts of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, fresh whole ripe fruit is crushed with the above ingredients and dried under the sun to make delicious cakes called ilanthai vadai or “Regi Vadiyalu” (Telugu).