Autumn is my favourite season. I enjoy observing nature’s incredible palette of autumn colours, as the leaves are turning into glowing yellow, warm orange, golden brown and some even fade to fascinating red. It is a great time to be outdoors and rediscover the local trails and forests, in preparation for the winter cross-country racing season.
Unfortunately, autumn also brings with itself the arrival of the flu and cold season – sniffles, coughs, and sick days put many of our plans (or training plans, if you are a runner, too) to a halt. As the old saying goes, prevention is best, so some of us resort to getting the flu jab, whilst others become more diligent with hygiene or try to distance themselves from those who are showing early signs of illness, hoping to keep the bugs away.
As a health conscious runner, my secret weapon to fight off the bugs is the food I eat. We all know that Vitamin C plays a key role in boosting our energy levels and immune system, so it is best to up our intake levels at this time of the year. Citrus fruits such as orange and baobab, as well as rosehip contain high levels of this important vitamin. And most recently, I have discovered another fantastic fruit which apparently has been used as herbal medicine in China and other ancient countries for thousands of years, and contains about 20 times more vitamin C than any other citrus fruit(!) Without further ado, let me introduce you to jujube.
This fruit is also known as red date. Contrary to what you might think, it is not a date per se, and is not related to the medjool and deglet dates you see in grocery stores. The name comes from the fruit’s similarity in appearance and flavor, when ripe and dried, to dates.
In Jordan, Lebanon and other Middle Eastern countries, jujube fruit is eaten as a snack or alongside a dessert after a meal; jujube tea is a popular welcome drink in Korean culture.
The unprecedented popularity of this fruit in Middle East and Asia is down to its various health promoting properties. Just to mention a few:-
– Due to its exceptionally high vitamin C content, it can help reduce the frequency, duration and severity of common colds, cough and flu, as it improves your immunity. Having just under a half cup of fresh jujubes fulfills over 100% of your daily vitamin C requirement. That’s a pretty easy and tasty way to stave of disease, in my opinion!
– Consuming jujube can enhance memory and concentration, even improve your mood – this is good news at this time of the year when many of us are affected by the ‘winter blues’. Due to the shortening of days and the weather turning grim, our moods fluctuate which can result in impaired cognitive functions.
– Jujubes can act as a natural energy booster if you are suffering from fatigue and loss of energy. These are common symptoms most of us tend to battle with, now that winter is almost on our doorsteps.
– If you did come down with a bug in the end, do not despair – when jujube is combined with certain herbs like ginger, licorice, and mint, it can provide relief to your achy throat muscles.
– Finally, jujube is also exceptionally high in potassium – this is a mineral that works with sodium to balance the fluids and electrolyte levels in your body. Steady fluid levels help regulate heartbeat and prevent muscles from cramping, therefore getting enough potassium is of particular importance to very active people and athletes; this could even be a game-changer for runners like me in the midst of racing season.
Chances are that you have not yet encountered jujube. In fact, that was the case with me, too, until Abakus Foods have contacted me and very kindly offered me some samples to try and review here on my blog. Read on to find out what I thought about the jujube fruit!
What are jujubes like?
Abakus dried jujubes have a spongy texture and an earthy sweetness; I would compare it to cinnamon spiced apple with subtle caramel undertones. They do not only taste great, but also smell great. Apparently, legends in some Asian countries say that jujube trees were closely watched because their sweet smell had the reputation of making people fall in love. (You may want to strategically place yourself near the person whose heart you would like to win, whilst eating jujubes, if you are superstitious!)
What is the best way to use jujubes?
Jujubes are incredibly versatile, the options are endless, the only limit is your imagination!You can add them to salads and smoothies to jazz up the flavour, top your porridge or dessert to add some crunch, or simply use them in baking in place of apples or raisins. They can be eaten fresh (raw), dried, or in a powdered format (like baobab).
If you are not using them in cooking or baking, they also make an excellent guilt-free snack when your sugar cravings kick in.
All dried jujubes are pitted for convenience. There are no artificial nasties or any sugar added to them – which is one of the first things I always look out for on the packaging when I try a new product. Abakus jujube products come in re-sealable 40g packs so that you can preserve their freshness.
If you have not tried jujube yet and feeling tempted to do so, I have three autumn inspired, drool-worthy recipes for you to try!
Comforting Cinnamon, Ginger and Jujube Tea
There is no right or wrong way to make jujube tea, as it depends on how concentrated you want the flavour to be. Some people prefer a strong taste (so you can add more fruit than in this recipe), whilst others enjoy a subtle hint. What I especially love about this tea is the its rich and comforting aroma and scent – perfect for sipping by the fireplace on cold evenings!
METHOD: Pour 400ml boiled water over 5 chopped dried jujubes, a cinnamon stick and an inch of fresh chopped ginger. Let it brew for at least 10 minutes. Add honey if you prefer a sweeter taste (however, I have found this to be sweet enough without adding any sweetener).
Vitamin C Punch Smoothie with Persimmon and Jujubes
I love kick starting my day with a vitamin packed smoothie and experiment with different flavours. Smoothies tend to be enjoyed during the warmer summer months by most people, however, I have found that the velvety texture and vibrant orange colour of persimmons, coupled with the sweetness of jujubes are perfect to bring the spirit of autumn into your kitchen! As a bonus, persimmons, like jujubes, are also packed with vitamin C.
METHOD: Whizz up in a blender one chopped ripe persimmon, a ripe small banana, one tsp of jujube powder, a splash of almond milk, a sprinkle of allspice, a heaped tbs of Greek style yoghurt (or dairy free yoghurt of your choice such as Alpro). Sprinkle some jujube crisps on top to decorate.
Creamy Jujube and Apple Overnight Oats
Overnight oats are one of my favourite go-to breakfasts, because I can prepare these the evening before, saving myself lots of time getting ready in the morning. By keeping it in the fridge overnight, by the morning the oats and the milk will have formed a creamier, more decadent texture than freshly cooked porridge.
METHOD: In a bowl, mix together a handful of porridge oats (my favourite brand is Flahavan’s chunky Irish oats); with a dollop of Greek style yoghurt (or dairy free yoghurt of your choice); a splash of milk, a grated small apple, a dash of maple syrup. Leave it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, loosen up the mixture with a splash of milk if necessary and sprinkle some walnuts, few slices of babana, jujube crisps and raisins on top.
Abakus jujubes have definitely earnt their spot amongst my favourite go-to superfoods, due to their lovely flavour, versatility and many health and wellbeing boosting benefits. If you would like to have a bit more energy, stave off colds and the flu, and bring a sense of calmness into your life, I think it’s time you indulge yourself with some jujubes this autumn and winter! Grab your snack sized pack from Abakus directly or head to your local health food store . And prepare to fall in love – that is, with the jujube fruit and not the shop assistant!
Disclaimer: Thanks for Abakus Foods for the product samples. All opinions and views expressed are of my own and this is not a sponsored post.