On the road… again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
What Goes Around Comes Around
The first time that the Footloose Forester ever set eyes upon a Zyzyphus jujuba tree was in a desert region in Sind Province, Pakistan. Travelers in the desert always welcome the sight of green trees in the landscape; for shade, for forage potential of its leaves; for their medicinal value; and for their edible fruits. The Zyzyphus has all of them. Known also as the Chinese date, the jujube tree produces small apple-like fruits that are rich in vitamin C, fights problems with the liver, can improve vitality, and can help quench the thirst of parched travelers. That first specimen of the jujube in its natural surroundings was also an object lesson about survival in the desert; and was given as part of a field lecture by an instructor from the West Pakistan Forest School in Bahawalpur. We were on a field trip and the instructor wanted to make the point that the hearty jujube was indeed an important tree in the desert environment.
Some ten years later, the Footloose Forester would encounter another Zyzyphus jujuba in another desert, in another country. The county was Mali and the desert was the Sahara. By no means was the region in the southern latitudinal belt known as the Sahel the same kind of bone dry expanse one thinks of when conjuring up the visions of the Sahara Desert, but on a small scale map it falls within its commonly accepted boundaries. In any case, there it was, brimming with small, tawny reddish brown fruits that looked more like berries than desert dates. They still nourished and still helped to slake his thirst. The Footloose Forester filled his pockets and had them as little snacks while in the field, for as long as they lasted.
What goes around comes around…thus he was delighted to see his Bengal Tiger wife come home from the local plant nursery in Virginia with a five foot sapling of Zyzyphus jujuba to plant in the front yard of our house. She was unaware of his previous encounters with jujube trees in Asia and in Africa. Nonetheless, the time had come for the past and the present to close the loop of reality. It may be another year or so before history repeats itself; but the Footloose Forester is anticipating filling his pockets with jujubes before he hits the trail or gears up for a fishing expedition.
One in the hand, 3 on the tree
As it turned out, we didn't have to wait too long to find out if our jujube would bear fruit in our locality. Edible fruit was produced just 13 months after planting. The first few were delicious and there are more to come. It is important to note that the fast producing Lang variety, shown above, so far is better suited to our growing circumstances than the Li variety, the other jujube tree variety that is growing nearby. The Bengal Tiger was not going to be satified with one tree when she knew there was another variety in the nursery. Its fruiting is somewhat delayed, thus the taste test will have to wait.