Saturday, June 16, 2012


Loquats are little yellow pear-shaped fruits, a little fuzzy, like apricots.  They were once forbidden to common people in China because of a legend about a carp who, after eating loquats, was able to swim upstream and leap over a waterfall, transforming into a powerful dragon. The emperor didn't want his people to similarly become strong like dragons (and kick him out of office), so they were banned, and only royalty was allowed to eat them.

These are a small bundle of loquats from a backyard in San Leandro, CA. They're technically a subtropic fruit that originated in Southern China, but now can be found growing even in cold San Francisco. They bruise easily, which makes them less suitable for commercial purposes – you won't find them at a Safeway.

Like you can see above, the flowers grow in small clusters on the tree.  Apparently the blossoms give off a very sweet and heady aroma that can be smelled from a distance – I'll need to find a loquat orchard and investigate this myself.

The ones I ate were yellow, but varieties can be yellow-orange or flushed with red. The flesh can range from white to yellow to orange, and is tangy and sweet (most sweet when they are very soft). It tasted a little like a combination of citrus, peach, and plum. 

They aren't my favorite fruit, mostly because of the tanginess (could be because the ones I had weren't fully ripened). They're also a lot of work – I peeled off the skin – and the ratio of fruit to seed is quite low.

They can have anywhere from three to five large (toxic) brown seeds, which are smooth and remind me a bit of tarmarind seeds - they're heavy and smooth to the touch, and could probably be made into jewelry.

But I can definitely see how I would enjoy these in other formats.  If not served fresh, they can be preserved into jams and jellies, or baked into pies and tarts – I'd definitely try those.

They can also be fermented into a sweet fruit wine, which sounds amazing (I visited a tropical fruit winery in South Florida last year that served sparkling lychee was so so so so so good). You can also apparently make sake exclusively from the seed (which has an aroma like an apricot kernel), but due to the cyanogenic glycosides, you could get cyanide poisoning if you have too much. Probably won't be trying that one.

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