Mouthful

What in the world are you eating?

Unfashionable loquats

04 November 2009 | 8:54 - By Phil Lees

ripe loquat fruit in a tree

Until I had a loquat tree in my backyard, loquats is something that I'd be more likely to throw down in a game of Scrabble than eat. Bingo with a Q. Eating them seemed to have fallen out of fashion at some point in the 1950s, just like sock hops or colonialism.

The fruit is a distant relative of the apple but when ripe, taste a little like a tart and less-flavoursome apricot, a sort of generic and underwhelming fruitiness. It originated in Southeastern China where it has been cultivated for thousands of years and has spread throughout almost all of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Almost everywhere with a Mediterranean-like climate has grown it for millennia. In Australia, it is for the most part, ornamental. The thick dark green foliage provides shade aplenty.

The loquats global reach is a result of the timing of when it comes into fruit. It fruits early. The fruit ripens well before summer and if you needed to rely on a supply of fruit throughout the year, loquat cultivars fill the gap after apples and before stone fruit ripen, which is reason enough to grow one at home. The more fruit and vegetables that you grow at home, the more that you realize that the time of the year that plants ripen is more important than crop yield (at least if you're not planning on a commercial orchard). When plants ripen in a single hit, you've got a few scant weeks of eating it fresh. Any means to stretch out the peak ripeness is appreciated, or else end up with a freezer full of fruit and a cupboard filled with pickles. It is the good life for chutney aficionados, less so for others.

As for what to do with loquats: anything for which you could use an apricot or plum, use a loquat. You can eat them raw. Their tartness works well in chutney and a fine jelly can be made cooking them with sugar, lemon juice and water. My loquats are on the tarter end of the spectrum, so I made barbecue sauce.

Hot Loquat and Cumin Barbecue Sauce

2kg loquats
1 cup (250ml) of malt vinegar
2 cups (500ml) of water
250gms of brown sugar
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon of chili flakes (adjust to taste)
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds

Cut off the end of the loquats and squeeze out the seeds. Mix the loquats together with all the ingredients and boil for an hour, until the loquats soften and fall apart. Blend with a stick blender/immersion blender/actual blender. If you prefer a chunky sauce, cool and eat with fatty barbecued meats.

a spoon covered in light brown barbecue sauce

Otherwise, push the sauce through a sieve with a spatula to remove the chunks, then cool and eat.

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11 Nov 2012 14:52 AEST

Alison

From:

loquat recipe - something different

We have several large loquat trees. This year they are covered in fruit. I love the combination of tart and sweet. Greek neighbour's recipe: She fries an onion in olive oil with the locut flesh ( pips removed) and a "small amount" of rice. I used 1/3 cup. Then add 1-2 chopped tomatoes. Morroccan spice is also nice. Cover cook on very low heat. Rice cooks in juice from locuts and tomatoes. Add lemon juice, salt pepper at end of cooking. Lovely! (I sent her off with a bag of loquats )

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10 Nov 2012 21:26 AEST

Aynur

From:

Lovely fruit

I am from Istanbul/Turkey. I grew up eating them every spring. I love them. Brings back my childhood memories. We eat them when they are ripe. We don't cook them. I'd like to try it...Do you know a nice loquat jam recipe?

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05 Nov 2012 16:26 AEST

caron

From:

variation to recipe

I made this but added some ketchup manis to it and it is sensational

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29 Apr 2010 8:07 AEST

Anne

From:

Loquats

Loquats grow really well here in Sth Aust. Parrots, wattle birds & pigeons love them too! It's a battle but well worth the fight. The key 2 good clean fruit each year is good pruning after fruit picking. I currently have lots of seedlings which came up from last year's seeds & I'm about 2 thin & graft. Loquat wine is awesome - 70 litre crops over last few years with between 14% & 17% alcohol content. Makes awesome jam, jelly, stewed with custard/cream/ice cream or fresh with toppings. Enjoy!

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05 Jan 2010 9:44 AEST

theartichokeblog

From:

Love em

Hey Phil, I've always loved this fruit. I thought it was just us Italians that got into them. They are really popular here in Italy and nothing really adventurous happens with them except eating them straight up. good to see some inventiveness with a local gem. Cheers. and we call them 'nespole'

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12 Nov 2009 14:31 AEST

Jeanette Harper

From:

Loquat trees

When I was growing up there were loquat trees everywhere, but the Dreaded Fruit Fly became such a problem they became too much trouble and went out of fashion. There are still a few in the wild in Bayview (near Loquat Valley School).

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10 Nov 2009 21:23 AEST

Jay

From:

Its all very well to talk about growing fruit but

What is the point of growing anything to eat if native wildlife just comes out during the night and strips it while you sleep. You can't net a whole tree and state environmental protection legislation makes you responsible for any harm causes to "native wildlife" by your net or other barriers. Every yard in this suburb has about 2.5 possums in it, not to speak of bats.

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08 Nov 2009 18:49 AEST

ro

From:

go loquats

we have two large loquat trees growing in our backyard. They reach about ten metres in height. they tend to fruit every second or third year, and when they do the branches droop with fruit. everytime we have visitors, we have to explain what they are, and convince them to try the fruit. the seeds are rather large, about 1cm in length and width, and apparently poisonous? i've always spelt them locut!

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06 Nov 2009 17:09 AEST

Nick

From:

So that's how you spell it

We had one in our backyard growing up too, although it never fruited as far as I know. I always mentally spelt it as "locat".

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04 Nov 2009 9:45 AEST

jane

From:

return of the loquats!

I grew up eating these in our backyard... fighting off the fruit bats for them. I always wonder why they're not more popular and I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who has an interest in them.

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About this Blog

A blog about what the world eats, when and where it eats it, and why it matters to us all. Only much less ambitious than that sounds and with more excruciating puns.

Phil Lees grew up in rural Victoria, the first generation in his family to not have lived on the farm and thereby not slaughter their own meat.

In 2005 he moved to Cambodia and started the nation’s first food blog, Phnomenon.com, named after the best pun that he has ever made. It turns out that Cambodian food is delicious and unlike the warnings in most guidebooks, is not likely to kill you with any immediacy. Gridskipper called him a “national treasure”. Lonely Planet’s Greater Mekong guide called him “the unofficial pimp of Cambodian cuisine”. The New York Times laughed at a funny hotdog he saw.

Phil makes a mean sausage, a hoppy pale ale, a modest laksa. He owns three barbecues and is in the market for a fourth.

 
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