Have you ever tasted a AmeriZao? It has the texture of an apple, but not the tartness. It can also taste like a date. This fruit of many flavors is the American jujube, also known as Chinese dates, that have been propagated and tested by New Mexico State University’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.
The public is invited to a tasting workshop from 2 – 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, at NMSU’s Agriculture Science Center at Los Lunas. NMSU Extension fruit specialist Shengrui Yao will lead the workshop where participants may sample 40-plus varieties.
“Since jujube cultivars are originally from China, where Zao is the word for this fruit, I wanted to keep the traditional name in the trademark,” Yao said.
Thirty-four varieties receiving a new trademark are propagated from cultivars Yao received from China in 2011. She has studied each cultivar for traits that will thrive in New Mexico’s various climate zones. Gradually, she will publish the top performers in each region and for different purposes.
“Jujube fruit trees are an excellent alternative fruit for growers in northern New Mexico,” Yao said. “The trees bloom from late May to early August, so late frosts will not prevent fruit from setting. They also do well in semi-arid conditions. Jujubes are low maintenance plants and produce a reliable crop annually.”
Yao has discovered that jujube trees already exist around the state, but owners are often not aware what type of tree it is, or how to use the fruit. She has collected fruit from various locations in addition to those raised in her study, for the annual fruit-tasting event.
“People really like the different flavors that each cultivar offers,” she said. “They are excited about having the fruit in their diet.”
The workshop will include a presentation about jujube flowering and fruiting habits, followed by a fruit tasting session and a field tour.