The humble loquat

I’ll start by saying that I don’t advocate tasting a plant until you know what it is and are sure it won’t kill you.  I didn’t necessarily take my own advice here, but I’m still alive to tell about it so here goes.

A couple weeks ago I was checking some books out of the library and noticed a fruit tree that was dripping with clusters of golden fruit.  They looked like apricots, but were a little smaller and more yellow than orange.

I picked one and smelled it, then poked it with my finger and the juice smelled sweet, so I took a bite (again, I don’t suggest this approach although it worked out here).  It was sweet with a little tart and about four bean sized seeds in the middle.  I picked another to take with me and do some research.

As I drove back to work I noticed another tree covered with this fruit on the corner of a street, not in front of anyone’s house, and just screaming to be harvested.  I HAD to figure out what this was, what I could do with the fruit, and make it back to the lone tree before someone else claimed “my” fruit as their own (can you claim adverse possession on a fruit tree?).

Google to the rescue.  I figured out pretty quickly that these were loquats, and that their season in this area is February-April.  Since that day I have seen no less than eight other loquat trees filled to the brim with these golden little gems also known as Japanese Plums.  They don’t travel well, so it’s hard to find them in grocery stores.  You might catch them at a farmer’s market, but it’s even better if you luck out and find an unclaimed tree for gleaning (just not “my tree”).  Around here, the rule is that if any fruit is hanging over someone’s fence into a public area it’s available for anyone to pick.  And, if a neighbor’s tree comes over the fence into your yard, the fruit on your side of the fence is yours.  We luck out because our neighbor has an avocado tree that has branches over the fence in our yard.  We get hundreds of avocados without having to take care of the tree (they also get hundreds on their side of the fence and we love our neighbors).

Back to loquats…the picture here stinks, but you get the idea.  This tree was literally just forgotten on the corner, but not for long.

I grabbed a box and headed back.  I brought a step stool and just made it look to the passersby like I owned it and was doing my normal harvesting.  I picked as many as I could reach, and I even got my family in on the action.  A couple cousins were in town that weekend so we all headed back to the tree (this time a little more prepared with a long handled fruit picker) and filled up another bag.  I love that my family supports my craziness.

All together I ended up with 12 pounds of loquats for free.  I used my harvest to can some loquat jam, loquat fruit leather, and vanilla scented loquat upside down cake.  All were delicious and I’ll post those recipes some other time. It’s still loquat season around here, so time to get out and pick some fruit!

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