Fruit of the Month: Loquat
Orange clusters are popping up all over Los Angeles! The loquat is our fruit of the month and we are just in time! Take a walk around your neighborhood and you will be sure to find this beautiful tree and tangy fruit hanging within arms reach!
Background and History
Also known as the Japanese plum or Japanese medlar, the loquat is native to China and is of the rose family (Rosaceae). The fruits are golden orange and ripen in clusters during the spring. The fruit is often compared to the apricot due to its similar size, taste, and texture. Loquats have up to five seeds. The seeds, like the apple seed, contain cyanide and when eaten in large quantities are toxic. The tree matures to about 25 feet tall and 15 feet wide. Most of the tree is covered in soft fuzzy hairs, including the branches, stems and fruit.
The first documentation of the loquat tree was in 1100AD in China. By the mid 1800’s, the fruit tree came to the United States by way of Chinese immigration to Hawaii. Today, commercial production is limited to the coastal areas between Santa Barbara and San Diego. It is more common as a backyard crop rather than a commercial crop because the fruit bruises easily and is susceptible to changes in the weather.
Types and Characteristics
There are 800 varieties of Loquats, but only 8 varieties are grown in California. Of these 8 varieties, there are two main types: Chinese and Japanese. The Chinese loquats have thin leaves, pea shaped fruit, dark orange flesh, and small, numerous seeds. The Japanese loquats have broad leaves, long and oval fruit, pale yellow skin, and a few large seeds.
In California, the fruit begins to ripen in April through May. Loquats reach maturity in 90 days. The fruit is ready to pick when it turns a golden color, or when the birds begin to peck at them.
Clusters are cut from the branch with clippers. Then, the fruits must be handpicked to avoid tearing the skin. Loquats bruise easily and travel poorly so they must be handled with care.
To eat a loquat, remove the stem, tear the fruit in half and remove the seeds. Remove the interior pithy membrane and the calyx. Most people prefer removing the skin because it is sometimes leathery and becomes tough when cooked. Loquats are best eaten at room temperature and can keep for a week if stored in at cool temperatures.
Care and Maintenance
Loquats do not need much pruning since the tree naturally establishes its shape. The tree can self prune because the soft wood breaks from heavy fruit crops.
To protect the fruit from birds and squirrels, some growers carefully tie bags over the fruit clusters.
Loquats are drought tolerant, but to promote higher fruit production, heavy and deep watering is recommended. Trees should be watered when the blossoms begin to swell, as well as 2 or 3 waterings during the harvesting period.
The flesh of loquats are often used to make jams, chutneys, and even infused alcohol. The seeds can be used to create an almond inspired alcohol flavor when paired with vodka. The leaves of the loquat tree can be seeped in hot water to make a delicious vanilla flavored tea.
Loquat Granita (http://compulsivebaker.wordpress.com/2012/05/28/loquat-granita/)
- 1o oz water
- 10 oz wine
- 3.2 oz sugar
- 4.7 oz loquat puree (made simply by removing the stems and seeds and running the loquats through a blender.)
- 1 oz triple sec
1. Combine the water, wine, and sugar in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil for three minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. Once cooled, add the puree and triple sec and whisk together until homogenous.
3. Pour into a shallow pan and freeze over night.
4. To serve, use a fork to scrape out the finished product until it has the texture of a snow cone. I like to serve in martini glasses.
For more information visit: http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/loquat.html