If you have room in your garden, and you are looking for a low maintenance fruit tree – consider a Loquat. They get my vote as they survive all over Australia in neglected backyards, remain disease free (so much less drama than a Lemon tree) and produce tasty fruit when there is not much else happening.
Do you have memories from your childhood of picking and eating these?
Growing across the globe in sub-tropical and mild temperate regions, this easy to grow tree develops to between 5 and 10 metres, but can be trimmed as needed. The loquat is a member of the Rosacae family as is the rose, apple and pear. It originated in China and was naturalised in Japan over 1000 years ago! In Mexico it is part of their ‘Living Dead’ tradition with the fruit being placed on alters as offerings to the spirits of the deceased.
If you are a patient person, you can start a loquat from seed – even if they take years to produce fruit they look fantastic as lush tropical type plants. The seed can go straight from the fruit into a seed raising mix, make sure to keep it moist and they will soon germinate. Transfer to a larger pot with a loamy soil mix, containing good compost when approx 15 cm high. They can get the sooks if they are being transferred constantly, so allow the seedling to grow in the pot until nice and strong (up to 12 months) and plant out at the beginning of next Spring.
Loquat trees thrive with lots of organic matter; so make additions to the planting spot as needed. They have a shallow root system which can spread considerably wide; so give them a good feed with a high nitrogen based fertiliser three times a year, spreading it well beyond the ‘leaf circle’.
Patience and maintenance is required after planting the seedling and with good growing conditions the loquat will fruit in 2 to 5 years from planting out. Pruning is done directly after harvest, this increases yield the following year and keeps the tree at a manageable ‘picking’ height.
When to harvest Loquats
I like to pick loquats as soon as the greenish tinge has gone, as they ripen very quickly and once they are soft, the lorikeets move in for a feast. You can either cut off bracts, giving the tree a light prune as you pick, or just pull individual fruits right off.
How to eat loquats
I prefer mine peeled, but this seems to depend on the tree! Some are easy to slip the skins away, others lose too much delicious flesh in the process so it isn’t worth it. They do have large seeds in the centre, these pop out easily enough. Don’t eat the seeds.
The loquat has its own unique flavour which is hard to describe – it is somewhat like a mango (but less intense) with the honeyed taste of an apricot, a slight fragrance of passionfruit, with a hint of tart citrus….depending of course on the ripeness of the fruit and the variations between trees.
When thinking of ways to use loquats try looking for a mango recipe and substitute the mango with loquats….works every time guaranteed! This means you can enjoy everything from cocktails to chutneys, and salsas to sweets.
The loquat is a nutritious fruit, high in Vitamin A, potassium, manganese and dietary fibre. Containing high sugar, pectin and acid levels loquats are an ideal jams and jelly making fruit. Maggie Beer has an excellent recipe for Loquat Jelly, and I enjoy making Loquat Jam.
[box]Please note: the loquat seed contains cyanide and is poisonous when ingested. So don’t eat it![/box]