Spiny jujube (Ziziphus spina christi) is a very ancient tree with a long history in the Arabian peninsula. Known as sidr, it grows in the southwestern part of Saudi Arabia especially in the Sarawat valleys. This tree is mentioned several times within the Qur’ān: in one sūra it is mentioned as the tree of the Earth, in another as the tree of paradise.
It is a tree with strong and deep roots that is characterized by a thorny appearance. It can reach 12 meters in height and has downward drooping branches that are brown-gray in color. The flowers are yellow as are the fruits; these once ripe turn red in color. Inside the fruits are protein-rich seeds with a very high nutritional value. The fruits are harvested in early December; the leaves are also used for medicinal purposes since they are rich in calcium, iron and magnesium. Reproduction of sidr occurs through seed propagation that is carried by water to new soils during the rainy season. Spiny jujube blooms in the period between October and the end of November: this time represents the peak period of attraction for bees and coincides with the harvesting of honey.
Thorny jujube honey is a thick honey with a sweet taste and an almost buttery texture. It is light golden in color that can darken over time tending to turn red-brown. The honey is used to sweeten beverages such as coffee or tea, or it is consumed plain. It is also used in the preparation of a traditional dish from the southwestern region of Saudi Arabia, Al- Ariykah: bread ground and mixed with honey and ghee (clarified butter).
This product is a very important source of income for beekeepers in the Sarawat valleys and their families. Today, however, it is becoming increasingly important to preserve the habitat in which the thorny jujube trees grow. The increasingly severe weather situation is putting this region at risk as it faces long periods of drought.
The selection of the products is supported by the Culinary Arts Commission of the Ministry of Culture of Saudi Arabia.
In collaboration with Azka Farms, Saudi Arabia.