The Lowdown on Loquats

3.22.17 – As winter becomes spring in Southern California (and it starts to feel like summer), there are so many fruitastic crops available to harvest and enjoy, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention an often-overlooked gem – the loquat!

Loquats on Tree

Loquat – by Charles Woo

Loquat trees with leaves as ears of donkey grow in the hill.
Their fragrant flowers are as white as snow in a chill.
In different season, they change their appearance.
During summer, their golden fruit is my preference.

What’s a loquat (and why does it inspire poetry)?

Great question!

The loquat is a stone fruit that is described as a cross between a mango and an apricot. Some varieties are sweet and some are a bit sour. You’ll probably see loquat trees in backyards around the city because they require little maintenance and like the Southern California climate. However, you won’t find them at the grocery store as there isn’t much of a commercial market for them in the US.

Background and History

Also known as the Japanese plum or Japanese medlar, the loquat is native to China and is part of the rose family (Rosaceae). The fruits are golden orange and ripen in clusters during the spring. The seeds, like the apple seed, contain cyanide and when eaten in large quantities are toxic, so stick to the fruit! 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.

Loquat Fruit

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.

Harvesting

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 it. Fruit clusters are cut from the branches with clippers. Then, the fruits must be handpicked to avoid tearing the skin. Loquats travel poorly (they’re quite sensitive) 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 cool temperatures.

by Erika Kerekes

Ingredients:

  • 20 large or 30 small ripe loquats
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 stalks green onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (1 large lime)
  • 1/8 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Wash the loquats well. Break one loquat in half by sticking your thumbs down into the middle from the stem end and pulling apart. Use your thumb to scoop out the seeds and pinch off the flower end. Peel the skin from the flesh – it should come away easily. Place the flesh on a cutting board and repeat with the rest of the loquats. Chop the loquat flesh with a large knife and put it in a bowl. Be forewarned: Preparing loquats is a labor of love. It’s not quick.
  2. Add the red and green onions, lime juice, salt and cilantro, and mix well. Let sit 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.
  3. Enjoy!

Salsa made from Loquats

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8 thoughts on “The Lowdown on Loquats”

  1. Dale says:

    Love the loquat tree. The flowers in October and November have a wonderful fragrant that I describe as ginger and vanilla. That smell will always remind me of Fall. The fruit a are deliciuos. I have about 10 I grew from seeds. While all different from each other all are great. I don’t think you can grow a bad one from seeds. I found on the internet that a tea can be made from them. The tea is even sold on amazon. I made some from mine and taste like a green tea but with a reddish color.

  2. Carla Taylor says:

    I grew up in the SF bay area, and we had an enormous loquat tree in our yard. I loved those fruits, and would love to get some seeds to try starting a tree back east here. I know I will have challenges with the colder climate, but would love to try. Can you tell me where I might find loquat seeds (without having to travel to Cali, Japan, or China)?

  3. zakia siddiqui says:

    HI , i have a Loquat tree full of semi ripe fruits but some are drying and some look riped but not sweet , what should do to sweeten the fruits

  4. Nadine Levy says:

    My loquat tree is heavily weighted down by tons and tons of fruit. Although the color has advanced from yellow to orange and the birds have been enjoying them, they don’t taste good. In fact, they just don’t taste ripe or sweet. The texture is spot on, the size is mature and I am concerned about my tree falling over if I don’t pick the fruit. I keep checking every few days to see if it tastes any better, but so far it doesn’t taste as yummy as I know it should. Does anyone have any ideas about why the fruit doesn’t taste good? The tree has produced delicious fruit in the past and I would love to figure out how to rectify the problem. Please send words of wisdom. Thank you.

  5. Michael says:

    What is the nutritional value of loquats, the vitamins content? Are loquats healthy to eat (after removing the seeds?) Thank you.

  6. Michael says:

    When picked at the right time, I think loquats resemble cherries in taste.

  7. Jeri says:

    When I was a child we used to bicycle a mile down over to a house with loquats, knock on the door to ask if we could pick her fruit. When permission was given, we devoured them. I don’t know how or when we found that tree nor anything about the owner but have never forgotten the fruit.

  8. Monk says:

    My husband and I have rented a beautiful house in Athens, GA. for 5 years now. This beautiful tree stands right outside our kitchen window, and we never knew what it was. I bore fruit for the first time this year (in June) and I was just able to figure out what it was yesterday after I picked and ate one! I am mystified at how we have one here in Georgia, but now I’m determined to pick the remaining fruit!

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