Loquat, also known as the Japanese plum, is a small, sweet, and juicy drupe fruit popular in many parts of the world. The fruit is native to China but has since spread to other countries, including Japan, Korea, and the United States.
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What is a Loquat?
A loquat is a small, yellow-orange fruit belonging to the Rosaceae/Rose family, and it is scientifically known as Eriobotrya japonica. It was believed to have been related to the genus Mespilus.
The loquat is also commonly called the Japanese plum or the Japanese medlar. It is native to southeastern China and has been cultivated in Japan for over a thousand years, so it is often associated with Japan. The loquat has since spread to other parts of the world, including the Mediterranean, South America, and the southern United States.
The loquat is an oval or pear-shaped fruit, typically about 1-2 inches (3-5 cm) long. It has smooth, thin skin that ranges from yellow to orange, depending on the level of ripeness. Inside, the fruit contains a juicy, slightly translucent flesh segmented, enclosing a few large, shiny, dark brown seeds.
Loquats have a unique flavor profile that is a mix of sweet and tart, often compared to a blend of apricot, plum, and cherry. The fruit is juicy with a slightly tangy and refreshing taste, becoming sweeter as it ripens.
Loquats can be consumed fresh and used in preserves, jellies, and desserts. They are also used to make beverages such as loquat wine and liqueur.
Different Names for Loquat
In China, it is called pipa; in Malta, naspli; in Pakistan and India, lukaat; in Sri Lanka, lucat or loket; in Spain, níspero; in Portuguese, nêspera; shések in Israel, akidéné in Lebanon, ebirangweti in Kisii, nespolo in Italy, and golabi jangali in Iran.
The History of Loquats
The history of loquats is deeply rooted in legends. It’s said that once upon a time, there was a school of golden Koi fish swimming against the Yellow River in China. They were determined to reach the Dragon Gate at the top of a waterfall, where they would be transformed into mighty dragons. However, many fish turned back, except for one brave Koi.
This Koi remained at the waterfall’s base, eating loquats that grew nearby for sustenance and energy. With renewed strength, the Koi persevered and finally reached the top of the waterfall, where it was transformed into a dragon as a reward for its determination.
Chinese royalty believed that the Koi’s victory was due to the magical powers of the loquats, so they guarded the fruits heavily.
In addition to their magical properties, Loquats were highly revered for their alluring scent, which was associated with courtesans. They were also highly praised and fed to the Royal family. Moreover, brothels were often called “the gate of the loquats.”
Loquats are native to China and have been cultivated for thousands of years. The first record of the fruits was in a medicinal text in China in 914 CE. The species was later carried to Japan and extensively cultivated for medicinal and culinary use.
European explorers then brought loquat seeds back to Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, where they were planted in National Gardens in Paris and Kew, England.
By the mid-19th century, loquats had spread throughout Europe, North Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and the Americas. In California, loquats were introduced in 1851 and were eventually cultivated in Los Angeles and along the coast from San Diego to Santa Barbara.
Grower Charles P. Taft developed loquat varieties for California cultivation in the late 19th century, including Champagne loquats. A vegetarian commune (the Societas Fraterna) grew loquats on their property as part of their unique spiritual diet. They even created a popular loquat variety still produced today – Gold Nugget.
Nowadays, loquats are commercially produced and sold in fresh markets and specialty retailers worldwide, with China being the most significant commercial producer.
What Does a Loquat Taste Like?
When ripe, the fruit has a sweet and slightly tangy flavor, similar to a combination of peach, apricot, and mango. The flesh is juicy and somewhat gritty, similar to a pear.
When eaten raw, the flavor of a loquat can be described as mild and delicate, with a slight acidity that gives it a tangy taste.
When cooked, loquats can be used in various dishes, including jams, sauces, and desserts. Cooking can enhance the sweetness and intensify the flavor of the fruit. Cooked loquats can also take on a softer texture and may become more jammy or syrupy, depending on the cooking method used.
How to Tell When Loquat is Ripe
Here are some visual characteristics to look for to determine if loquats are ripe:
|Ripe loquats are yellow-orange and have a slightly translucent appearance. If the fruit is still green or has a lot of green, it’s not ripe.
|Ripe loquats should be slightly soft to the touch. If the fruit is too hard, it’s not ripe yet. The skin should also be smooth and without blemishes.
|Ripe loquats have a sweet, fragrant smell. If the fruit doesn’t smell or has a sour smell, it’s not ripe yet.
Note: If you’re unsure about the ripeness of the fruit, ask the vendor or store employee for assistance.
Are Loquats and Kumquats Related?
Loquats and kumquats are not closely related, although they share some similarities, the first being their similar name.
- Both are small, bite-sized fruits eaten whole (except for the seeds).
- Both are typically eaten fresh and have a sweet taste.
- Both fruits are high in vitamin C.
- Loquats are more prominent than kumquats, usually about the size of a small plum or apricot, while kumquats are typically the size of a large olive or grape.
- Loquats have smooth skin that is often orange or yellow when ripe, while kumquats have thin, edible skin that is typically bright orange or yellow.
- The flesh of a loquat is juicy and similar to a plum, while the flesh of a kumquat is drier and has a more tart flavor.
- Loquats have large seeds that are not typically eaten, while kumquats have tiny seeds that can be eaten along with the fruit.
- Loquats are native to China and widely cultivated in Asia, the Mediterranean, and the Americas. Kumquats are native to China and are also grown in other parts of Asia, as well as in the United States and Europe.
Can I Eat Raw Loquat?
You can absolutely eat raw loquat! Here are a few applications of the raw fruit:
|You can wash and enjoy this fresh fruit as a tasty and healthy snack. Their sweet and slightly tart flavor makes them an enjoyable treat.
|Combine them with other fruits like strawberries, grapes, and pineapple for a refreshing mix.
|Blend raw loquats with other fruits, yogurt, or milk to create a delicious and nutritious smoothie. Their natural sweetness means you won’t need to add much if any, additional sweetener.
|Use sliced or chopped raw loquats as a topping for yogurt, oatmeal, or ice cream.
Important Note: Remove the seeds before consuming, as they can be toxic if ingested.
Cooking with Loquats
Loquats are small, yellow-orange fruit that grows on loquat trees and is popular in Asia, particularly in China, Japan, and Korea.
Preparation: Before cooking with loquat fruits, you must clean and remove the seeds from the fruit. To do this, wash the fruit under cold water and gently twist and pull the seeds out with your fingers. Alternatively, you can cut the fruit in half and remove the seeds with a spoon.
Cooking: Loquats can be eaten raw or cooked. They can be added to salads and smoothies or used as a topping for yogurt or ice cream. In Chinese cuisine, loquats are often used in savory dishes, such as stir-fries and braised meats. In Japanese cuisine, they are used in desserts, such as jellies.
Traditional cuisines: Loquats are commonly found in Asian cooking, particularly in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean dishes. In China, they are known as pipa, and are used in sweet and savory dishes. In Japan, they are called biwa, and are often used in desserts, such as mochi and jelly. In Korea, they are used to make liquor.
Here are some examples of recipes that use loquats:
Loquat Jam: This sweet spread is the perfect way to enjoy the juicy, tangy flavor of loquats all year round. Spread it on toast, or use it as a glaze for meats.
Loquat Upside-Down Cake: Who says pineapple gets to have all the fun in the upside-down cake game? This loquat version is just as delicious, with caramelized loquats nestled in a fluffy cake batter.
Loquat Chicken: Move over, orange chicken; there’s a new fruit in town! Loquats add a sweet and tangy flavor to this savory chicken dish, and the juicy fruit keeps the meat tender and moist. It’s a one-pan wonder that’s perfect for a weeknight dinner.
Loquat Crumble: For a comforting and sophisticated dessert, try a loquat crumble. The crisp topping is loaded with buttery, nutty goodness, while the juicy loquats underneath add a burst of fruity flavor.
How to Store Loquats
Loquat is very perishable, so storing it properly is essential. Here are some of the most common ways:
Room temperature: Store loquats at room temperature (around 68°F or 20°C) in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight. Shelf life: 1-2 days.
Refrigerator: Place the loquats in a perforated plastic bag or container and store them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Shelf life: 1-2 weeks.
Freezing: Wash, dry, and remove seeds from loquats. Place them in a single layer on a tray, freeze until solid, and then transfer them to airtight containers or freezer bags. Shelf life: up to 6 months.
Canning: Prepare loquats by washing, peeling, and removing seeds. Follow a tested canning recipe for fruit preserves or jams, and store the canned loquats in a cool, dark place. Shelf life: 1-2 years.
Drying: Slice loquats into thin pieces, place them on a dehydrator tray, and dehydrate them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Store the dried loquats in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Shelf life: 6-12 months.
Nutritional Benefits of Loquats
Loquats are a fruit that provides several health benefits due to their high nutritional value. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, they are used for their soothing properties, such as reducing indigestion and nausea and healing colds and coughs.
Loguats are high in calcium, essential for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. The fiber helps regulate the digestive tract, preventing constipation and promoting regular bowel movements.
Vitamin A in loquats maintains healthy organs, including the skin, eyes, and immune system, while Vitamin C strengthens the immune system and protects cells from damage.
Furthermore, it also has magnesium and potassium, ensuring optimal nerve functioning, maintaining healthy bones, balancing fluid levels, and regulating blood pressure.
It’s also packed with phosphorus, folate, and iron, which all maintain strong bones, give the body energy, help with cell frosts, and are essential for oxygen transport.
Lastly, vitamin B6 helps the body produce neurotransmitters that regulate mood and behavior.
Where to Purchase Loquats
Local farmers’ markets are the best place to find fresh, seasonal loquats. Check with your nearest market for availability. They are typically available from late spring to early summer (April to June).
Some specialty or ethnic grocery stores may stock loquats, especially those that cater to Asian communities. Websites specializing in exotic fruits may offer loquats for sale. Remember that shipping costs may be higher, and the freshness of the fruit may be compromised.
If you live in an area with a suitable climate for loquat cultivation, you might find local orchards or farms that sell the fruit directly to the public.