Jujube and Goji Fever

Jujube Photo from the Papaya Tree Nursery

Tucked into a residential neighborhood in a corner of Los Angeles’ vast San Fernando valley, the Papaya Tee Nursery, sells a dazzling array of exotic fruit trees, countless species and varieties you’ve never heard of. Papaya Tree’s proprietor Alex Silber, with his encyclopedic knowledge and stream of consciousness delivery, comes across at first as, well, unusual, until you realize that it’s not Alex that’s off kilter but the rest of the world. Who’s more sensible: someone who has a backyard full of the best fruit you’ve ever tasted, or the rest of us who know nothing other than flavorless, supermarket produce? There’s a whole world of flavor that our backyards could produce and Alex just might be Southern California’s exotic Johnny Appleseed.

Homegrown Evolution took a trip to Papaya Tree two weeks ago with bench pressing spotter, activist and blogger Creek Freak (whose book Down by the Los Angeles Riveris on my must read list). Creek Freak detailed his experience here on the Eco-village garden blog, and came back from Papaya Tree with an unique variety of jujube (Zyzyphus jujuba) which Alex Silber calls the Chang Jujube. Alex’s father got the original Chang tree as a gift from a friend in Asia. For those of you who have never had a jujube, it has a flavor somewhat like a date, (hence the popular name “Chinese date”). Most of the jujubes I’ve sampled at farmers market taste, charitably, like slightly sweet Styrofoam packing materials. Alex was nice enough to send us home with a bag full of dried Chang jujubes which convinced even the skeptical Mrs. Homegrown Evolution that this variety of jujube tree is well worth growing. The Chang jujube, unlike most varieties, is self pollinating and therefore does not require a partner. The Chang also has a distinctive, narrow and upright growing pattern, making it an ideal tree for small spaces. Jujube trees are an amazingly adaptable, deciduous tree, tolerating cold but preferring hot summers to produce good fruit which can be eaten fresh or dried. Once dried, the fruit stores for many months.

Goji berries (Lycium barbarum)

While Creek Freak came back with his jujube, Mr. Homegrown Evolution snagged three small goji berry bushes (Lycium barbarum). Goji berries created a frenzy in new age circles a few years back, with some extraordinary health claims, and currently fetch $14 for a pound of dried berries at Whole Foods. What attracted us to the plant is its alleged tolerance to living in proximity to black walnut trees, notorious for producing their own herbicides. We ended up planting them elsewhere in the yard, since our black walnut area is a bit too shady, and we’ll report back on how they do. Supposedly the leaves are edible as well, for those of you keeping score on the alternate uses of fruits and vegetables.

Note that the Papaya tree nursery is by appointment only and can be reached at (818) 363-3680. No mail order except for miracle fruit berries (see those strange berries and some video of the Papaya tree nursery here).

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  1. “No mail order”

    Bummer. Really. So after getting myself all excited, and checking the Jujube hardiness zone, I can’t just order one? Any chance you’d be willing to mail a seed or two?

  2. Hey this is kind of a perfect post for Chines New Years, (which is today) Gung Hay Fat Choy! but tangerines and pomelos are more of the fruit for today than dates. We also have a Jujube tree at the Center For Regenerative Studies. Which reminds me. We’d like to see if you can come to a community dinner and give a talk next month. I’ll e-mail you with more details.

  3. For more information about these fruits and a list of suppliers that do mail order go to http://www.crfg.org We are a group of backyard fruit enthusiasts, agriculture researchers, and commercial growers. We have chapters all over California. We also produce a very nice b-monthly magazine called the Fruit Gardener, have an annual convention called The Festival Of Fruit, and hold annual exchanges of fruiting plant material.

  4. Thanks Ben! I should have mentioned the CRFG in this post–they are a tremendous resource and the magazine is terrific.

    Kate- most fruit trees are not grown from seed–you don’t get the same thing as the parent. There are other mail order nurseries that carry jujube. I’d contact the CRFG folks for some tips on finding a good variety.

  5. It must be so nice to live in your climate! My little goji/wolfberry is inside for the NY winter and hates me for it. I almost cried when you mentioned your avocado tree the other day. I’m now setting my sights on a “Siberian” kiwi…

  6. Dear Sir
    Good morning!

    This is very presumptuous to bother you.

    Manufacture: JILY ENTERPRISE CO., LTD.

    Have you ever bought goji from China? Now China is a major producer and exporter, so your competitors have been purchasing them for a long time.

    We specializes in manufacturing of high quality goji for 10 years,,which used widely around domestic and abroad . We must will have an

    excelent cooperation with mutrual benefit!

    By the way, if you are not in the purchasing department,could you pls transfer this mail to you purchasing manager or tell his contact information?

    Anything of your interest,pls contact freely

    Waiting for your news

    Thanks and regards


    Tel: 0086-311-68051629
    Fax: 0086-4008266163-60966
    Email: [email protected]
    Skype: cindyearly

  7. Hi Dear,

    Nice day,

    Hope this e-mail find you well, : )

    This is Sofia Liu,a lovely girl from Yinchuan,Ningxia,we are the first manufacturer export organic Goji berries for 17years.

    After saw your website,I thought you might be interested in our Goji berries .

    would you like to get some samples for testing ?

    We still have many other models, i can send you our more information if it’s okay for you, dear friend -:)

    I’m here waiting for your reply-:)

    Sincerely ,


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