Looking and tasting like an apple and a date fused into one species, the Jujube has fast become one of L.A.'s multicultural fruit treasures. Originating in China, and transplanted here with very limited success in the early part of the 20th century, it's taken the Jujube almost a hundred years to gain a more mainstream foothold in our local markets. Blame a loss in translation. The original importers didn't understand the difference between the hundreds of Chinese varieties of this prolific tree fruit and shipped varieties back to the states that were more suitable for drying and preserving than fresh eating. A little plant breeding and some more thoughtful research has given it a more deserving spot in our autumnal market lists.
One of the more substantial and common varieties of Jujube available in California is the Li. Varying in size from a tiny date up to a soft green racketball, the Li has a soft, slightly dry crunch, with a tight, mottled skin and a honey-like sweetness. Jujubes are not juicy fruit, but in a world where syrupy, drippy, overwhelmingly sloppy wet fruit is more of a norm, the Li Jujube is a delicate opposite: subtle, small, and worthy of mindful tasting.
The best thing to do with Jujubes is to eat them straight out of hand, or maybe pair them with a little cheese. They have an apple crunch with just a hint of caramel. But the Li also pickles very well. Choose for tight pale green skin that is giving way to a dark sugar brown. The fruit has a little sponginess to it, but don't choose fruit with sunken, wrinkled, or nicked skin. Size doesn't matter here: both large and small Li fruits have excellent flavor and minimal seed, so select according to your own preference.
Moua Brothers Farms, which sell harvests from their Fresno farm at several local markets including South Pasadena and Westchester, will have the Li Jujubes in until the end of October.