The Loquat

Explains what a loquat is and where it is grown. Also details common uses for it in cooking and as a medicine.

The loquat, also known as biwa, pipa, nispero, nespole, and Japanese medlar, is a fruit that is a member of the pome family and is similar to a plum, an apple, and a pear. This fruit is produced from the loquat tree, which is a small, evergreen-type tree that can grow to a height of approximately 15 feet. Loquat trees originated in Asia, in China, and then appeared in Japan where their fruit was actively used both as a food source and for medicinal purposes. Loquat trees now grow throughout the world including Australia, South America, the Middle East, and in the United States in Arizona, California and Hawaii. Loquat trees typically grow well in mild climates. Besides bearing fruit, they produce small, attractive, and fragrant white flowers. Because of this, they are often used as decorative trees for landscaping purposes.

Loquat fruit is produced from the loquat tree during the months from October through January. As the fruits mature in April and May, they form oval shaped objects approximately one to two inches in length. Additionally, depending on the loquat type, its outer color will be orange, yellow, or peach, and its inner flesh color will be orange, yellow, or white. The loquat type also determines how the loquat will taste and how it should best be used. For example, the "Strawberry" loquat has a taste similar to strawberries, hence its name. Meanwhile, the "Wolfe" loquat is recommended for use in recipes. Thus, when selecting loquats, inquire as to the loquat's type and ask how the particular loquat should be used. Certain loquat types are also fairly hearty. For these loquats, you can safely store them in your home, at room temperature, for up to one week prior to using them.

You can purchase fresh loquats in some larger grocery stores and in specialty and ethnic stores. When purchasing a loquat, make sure that the loquat is smooth and slightly soft to the touch. Additionally, note that each loquat will contain approximately two to five large seeds. Before using the loquat, you will need to remove these seeds. Although you can eat both the loquat's skin and its inner flesh, typically only the inner flesh is consumed.

Popular uses for the loquat include making jams or preserves from it or eating it raw, as a dessert or in salads. Additionally, loquats have been used to make wine. Besides having a sweet taste and juicy texture, loquats are also highly nutritious. For example, they contain the vitamins A, B, and C. Additionally, many Chinese believe that the loquat can aid in preventing thirst and work to stop vomiting or coughing spells. Loquats have also been prescribed in China for the prevention of respiratory problems.

The loquat has been used for many centuries as both an ornamental and medicinal plant and as a food source. Because of its unique properties, the loquat will continue to be cultivated not only in those countries where it is now commonly used, but in other regions that are now learning about the many benefits gained by using this interesting and diverse tree and fruit.

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