Known as “hong zao” 红枣 or “da zao” 大枣 in Mandarin, Chinese red dates, also known as jujube (Ziziphus jujuba) have been cultivated in China for over 3,000 years. There are two common types of dried red dates available in the market; “hong zao” which refers to the red variety while “da zao” refers to the black variety. Both originate from the same fruit, however the production process results in different colors. Fresh jujube fruits which are lightly blanched in boiling water and then dried sun dried produce the red variety Chinese date. Fresh jujube fruit blanched in boiling water, sun dried and smoked till blackened produce the black variety.
Dating back to the 5th century, the “Qu Min Yao Shu” 齐民要术 is one of China’s earliest and most complete agricultural texts. This agricultural encyclopedia identifies 42 kinds of fruit and ranks the jujube fruit first on this list. Jujube, along with peach, plum, apricot and chestnut are known as the “Five China Fruits”.
Chinese red dates are believed to have highly medicinal properties according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), earning the moniker “the king of fruits” (“bǎi guǒ zhī wáng” 百果之王) among Chinese. It is very rich in vitamins (vitamin C in particular) and other micronutrients such as calcium and potassium. This explains why it is one of the most popular health foods in China. However, like all good things in the world, even red dates should be eaten in moderation. Excessive consumption can result in bloating and additionally, since they are sweet, diabetics are usually advised to avoid red dates.
Nourish the blood and replenish “qi”
Red dates are believed to have blood nourishing and “qi” replenishing properties (the red variety in particular). According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, red dates are “warming” and thus consumption helps boost a person’s “Yang-Qi” which is the warm half of the Yin-Yang balance.
“Qi” in Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to the “life energy” that is an essential constituent in every living being, governing the fundamental processes that keep every living being alive, from organ function, blood circulation, growth, development, immunity etc. “Qi” deficiency is believed to lead to illnesses and Chinese red dates are one of the most popular recommendations to nourish “qi”. Thus, Chinese red dates are often recommended for people who are blood deficient and generally weak. Combining red dates with longan and goji berries for instance in the preparation of red date tea or red date porridge is believed to help stimulate blood production nourish “qi”.
Chinese believe red date help rejuvenate skin and help maintain its youthfulness, making it a popular food for women.
Soothe the nerves
Red dates are believed to calm the nerves and thereby help a person to relax.