Origin and distribution
The Chinese ber is believed to be originated in Central and Southern China, where over more than 400 cultivars have been developed. It belongs to the family Rhamnaceae. It is called as jujube, Chinese-ber, red date and Chinese date. Its precise natural distribution is uncertain due to extensive cultivation, but it is thought to be in Southern Asia, between Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan, the Korea peninsula and Southern and Central China.
Chinese ber requires a small amount of chilling during winter to set the fruits. However, it can withstand in a wide range of temperature (below freezing to 340C).It can be grown up well at an altitude of 1,000-2,000 m MSL. It is a small deciduous tree reaches a height of 5-10 m. The plants are non-thorny and tall. The leaves are shiny-green, ovate-acute 2-5 cm wide and 1-3 cm broad and a finely toothed margin. The flowers are small, 4-5 mm wide with five inconspicuous yellowish-green petals. Pollination takes place by the wind or by insects. The fruit is an edible oval drupe 1.5-3 cm when mature it is smooth-green, crispy, taste like apple, maturing brown to purplish and eventually wrinkled, looks like a small date. Fruits are mature in October.
Nutritional value and uses
The fruits are eaten as a dessert, they are non-juicy and can be dried or processed as juice cake, candy, and syrup. Since the fruits are rich in vitamin C, also has medicinal use as a tea for a sore throat. The fruits are used in Chinese and Korean traditional medicine as sweetened Chineses ber twig tea syrup, where they are believed to alleviate stress and as a wound healer. In China, wine is made from jujube, called ‘hong zao jiu”, which allows them to be kept fresh for a long time, especially in Cultural winter practices: Chinese ber thrives in sandy, well-drained soil. It can tolerate drought to some extent. It can be grown between 1,000-2,000 m MSL.
The plants can withstand below freezing and as high as 340C. New plants of Chinese ber can be propagated through grafting or budding on to a thorny rootstock, which is a most common method. However, sapling arises from suckers of the mother plant can also be used as a new plant. The cuttings of semi-hardwood of 10-15 cm long, 1-1.5 cm diameter containing 4-5 bud axils are also used to raise new plants during the rainy season. They are planted in the pits of 1x1x1 m size, properly filled with a mixture of farmyard manure and sand in 1:1 ratio, in December or January.
Newly planted trees must be headed back at the top, and all side branches should be removed. A dose of 15-25 kg well rotten farmyard manure, 0.200 kg urea, 0.5 kg single super phosphate and 0.4 kg potash per tree should be given in January. The tree reaches a height of 4-5 m at the age of 8-10 years. They are almost free from any serious diseases and pests. Plants are non-thorny, but small thorns may appear on newly developed twigs. The plants bear fruits in the cluster; ripened fruits have dark green skin colour which turns brown after one week. Fruits mature in October months. Fruits are ovate-oblong. Ripened fruits can be stored at ambient temperature for 2-3 weeks or may be dried or candied.
Three accessions of Chinese ber namely Ta-Yan-Jhao (EC27715-A), Ta-Yan-Tszov (EC36768) and Moodeung (EC280769) were introduced from Russia and Korea, they have established in the field gene bank. These accessions have been distributed to several research institutes/stations of Himachal Pradesh and J&K located at high altitudes. Existing accessions have also been characterized.
The tree habit was bushy, spreading, and upright. Leaf shape is ovate, broad elliptic and elliptic with a serrate margin. Fruit bear solitary to cluster, with smooth fruit surface, round fruit apex and base. Pulp colour greenish-white, less sweet with moderate pulp aroma. Stone shape oval to the spindle. Fruit length varies from 18-43 mm and diameter 12-33 mm. Average fruit varies 8-18 g with 16-21% total soluble solids and pulp to stone ratio from 12-19. Contorted, Lang, Li, Sherwood, Sugarcane, Georgia 866 are other important cultivars available in other countries.
- National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources Regional Station Phagli, Shimla