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Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)

The loquat is cultivated both as a fruit tree and as an attractive ornamental. Indeed, in some places it is planted for its beauty by people who have no idea that the fruits are edible and quite tasty.

The Loquat is a small tree that grows up to about 4 or 5 metres tall. It has dark green, pleated leaves with yellowish-brown undersides. It produces clusters of fragrant, yellowish-white flowers and lemon-yellow fruits. A few cultivars have orange or white fruits instead of the more common yellow.

The species is native to China but cultivated in Japan for at least a thousand years. Today it is grown in warmer regions around the world and has established itself in the wild in many warm parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, and numerous oceanic islands (such as New Zealand, Hawaii, Tonga and Réunion).

In Australia, the loquat has become a feature of the natural landscape along the coastal parts of Queensland and New South Wales and also on Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island and a few places in Victoria and Western Australia.  

It is the fruit that is the most cherished of the tree’s products. It is about 5-10 cm long, bright yellow with a layer of soft down around the outside, similar to peach fuzz. The down is harmless and can easily be wiped or washed off. Inside, there is juicy yellowish flesh that tastes rather like grapes with a hint of citrus or mango.

In the center, there are 2-4 large, hard brown seeds. Loquat seeds are not edible but have been used to flavor rum. The yellow flesh, however, you can eat raw, fresh off the tree, as a delightful treat on a hot day. You add also them to a fruit salad or use them to make pie, confectionaries, jam or jelly. Loquat also makes an excellent chutney or preserved fruit. They are also a favourite bush tucker food.

The fruit is high in pectin, making it ideal for jam and jelly.  It also rich  in vitamin A, dietary fiber, potassium and manganese.

Image: Olaf Speier/Shutterstock

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