“The neighbor said to go pick some plums,” my husband told me a couple of weeks ago.
“Plums?” I thought to myself. “I didn’t realize he had a plum tree.” I was thinking of something like the plum trees I had seen growing up.
What I had seen was a tree next to his driveway that was loaded with dark-yellow fruit. It was a loquat. I realized they were what my husband was referring to when he brought home a small branch. After thoroughly washing them, I cut open and removed the seeds, having been warned they were in there. They were good. Similar to a plum, they have thin skin and sweet-tart flesh inside. I ate all of them and decided to get more and see what I could do with them.
WHAT ARE LOQUATS
Also known as Japanese plums, Eriobotrya japonica is an evergreen tree that is a member of the pome family and a cousin of pears, apples, and quinces. Native to China it has been grown in Japan for centuries. It does well in zones 8-10 (I live in 9b a block and a half in from the Atlantic Ocean).
I kept reading about loquats in books on gardening in Florida and finally saw a picture. That was when I realized the neighbor’s tree was a loquat.
Loquats are thin skinned and have seeds inside. The numbers vary; the ones I worked with had from 2-5. The seeds are not edible, although I found recipes using them to make a liqueur by soaking in vodka for a year or so.
WHAT I MADE WITH LOQUATS
The next day I headed over with a bowl and filled it with loquats I picked. A quick internet search turned up a number of recipes for using them. Most were for jams, pies, or other sweets, and I wanted something that used less sugar. I finally found two recipes that weren’t sweetened and that I had all the ingredients for at home: loquat vinaigrette and pickled loquats.
I prepared the loquats by cutting in half and scooping out the seeds. Sometimes the peel would come off in the process and sometimes not but it didn’t matter for these recipes.
When I finished making those, there were a few loquats left over, so I halved, seeded and froze them to eat later.
I made a few changes to each of the recipes.
For the pickled loquats, I used one banana pepper instead of the jalapeno because a) I wanted a milder ver!). Instead of garlic cloves, I used minced garlic I had in the refrigerator. Since I did not have one jar large enough to put the entire recipe in, I used two and they were different sizes. I divided everything as evenly as I could between them. I also cut the loquats in half instead of slicing and removing the seeds. I processed a large batch for both this and the vinaigrette and it was easier to do it this way.
For the vinaigrette, I used about 1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano. The recipe doesn’t specify fresh, but I didn’t have any so used what I had. I don’ t have a blender or food processor, so I put everything in a jar, tightly screwed on the lid, and shook it up. I do find I need to shake it good each time I use it, but that is no big deal to me.
OTHER WAYS TO USE LOQUATS
When the neighbor brought over another bowl of loquats. Wanting to try something different yet still without a lot of sugar I made sorbet.
The recipe sounded good, but I made several changes. The recipe calls for two lemons. I didn’t have any and those available in the store were quite large, so I bought and used one of those. I didn’t have any mint so just left that out.
I don’t have a food processor, I halved and froze the loquats overnight. The next day, I chopped as small as I could then mashed with a mortar and pestle before mixing with the lemon juice and a bit of sugar.
Next time, I’m going to chop then freeze them. That way they are more frozen when I mash them up.
After everything was mixed, it went back into the freezer to freeze solid. Once frozen it needs to sit out for a few minutes to soften enough to get out with a spoon. Or just scrap it out a little bit at a time!
I call mine Chunky Loquat Sorbet.
Everything tasted good to me!
I shared a jar of the pickled loquats with the neighbor who had given them to me. They were a bit tart for his taste.
I like using local ingredients (like within 10 feet of my house), using what I have at home (other than the lemon for the sorbet), and not having artificial preservatives in my food. The sorbet is a nice alternative to ice cream which I need to be cutting back on for my cholesterol.
I ended up with a LOT of seeds and hate just throwing them out, so I put a couple in small pots of potting soil to see if they will sprout.
Everything I read said the trees grown from seeds don’t fruit; you need to graft for to get a fruit-bearing tree.
Time will tell what happens to mine.
Don’t have loquats in your area? Don’t worry! There are foods unique to every climate that you can take advantage of. What do you have available to you that you could try?