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Jamun are berries with an oblong shape similar to Kalamata olives. They have a dark purple to almost black skin with a starkly contrasting pink or white flesh. The flesh is extremely juicy and has a flavor that combines sweet and tart with a slightly astringent aftertaste. The fruit contains a hard seed which should be discarded. When eaten, the dark-colored skin leaves a stain on the lips and mouth that can last for several hours.
Jamun fruit is produced almost year-round in tropical and sub-tropical climates with a peak season in the summer.
Jamun fruit is botanically known as Syzygium cumini and is produced on an evergreen tree that reaches up to 20 feet tall. In its native India, the fruit is also called Jambul or Jaam. Around the world the small fruit is known as Java plum, Black plum, Lomboy, Duhat, and Indian blackberry. The Jamun tree is revered by Buddhists; in Indian mythology, Lord Rama subsisted on Jamun fruit during his 14-day exile in the forest. This lore earned the fruit the nickname “fruit of the Gods.” The Jamun tree lives for over 100 years.
Jamun fruit is used as a treatment in Ayurvedic medicine in India for a variety of ailments. The rich, dark color of the berry is the result of anthocyanins in the skin. This phytonutrient provides ample antioxidants as well. Jamun also contains vitamins A and C, folic acid, potassium, zinc and iron, among others. In Ayurvedic medicine, the berries and other parts of the Jamun tree are used to treat anemia, digestive issues, respiratory infections and is also used to regulate one’s heartbeat.
Jamun fruit is eaten fresh, off the tree. Because of the astringent taste, the dark berries are often eaten with a sprinkle of salt when fresh. Jamun fruit are used to make jams and jellies, wine and other beverages. Blend chopped Jamun fruit with yogurt or fresh curd, sugar and vanilla extract for a smoothie. The berries are cooked down with water and sugar for preserves. Unripened fruit can be used to make wine or vinegar.
Jamun fruit are native to India and surrounding countries: Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The tree was introduced to the US via Florida in 1911. Jamun fruit does not ripen off the tree and individual berries ripen at different times; fruit is picked daily and is most often foraged. Jamun can be found a farmer’s markets in India and in the surrounding region.