Loquats: A Secret Southern California Delight
Having grown up in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California, I was blessed with an abundance of neighbourhood fruit trees- navel and valencia oranges, lemon, persimmon, and stone fruit. But my personal favorite has always been the loquat trees found in front and back yards, parks, and parkways along the sidewalks, in rich areas and less advantaged areas alike. For a short time in April, these loquat trees bear a small tear shaped, pale orange fruit with a juicy layer of firm flesh around a big brown slippery pit. Loquat season has always been my favorite time to forage.
Picking neighbourhood fruit has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. So it still surprises me that Angelenos seem to know nothing about this delicious little fruit that is literally falling off the trees around them.
Loquats, or Eriobotrya japonica, is native to the cooler hilly regions of south central China and have been eaten there for more than a millennia as both a food and an herbal medicine; the fruits are eaten both as a delicious treat and to moisten the lungs, while the leaves are steeped as a tea to stop dry cough and resolve phlegm. Loquats eventually made their way to Japan, where they are referred to as “Japanese plum“, and in the middle part of the 1800s found their way from Japan to Southern California, where the climate and the soil turned out to be perfect for growing them.
It was hoped that they could become a crop that could be grown in orchards and exported, but it turned out that loquats are particularly delicate and vulnerable to bruising, and once they are picked their optimal eating time lasts only a day or two. Because loquats grow prolifically in bunches and are ridiculously easy to grow, loquat trees eventually spread widely across the SoCal region, which made them too abundant to sell locally.
The flavor of loquats is hard to describe. They are very juicy, orange-tinted and sweet with a hint of tartness, though when loquats are perfectly ripe their tartness disappears. They’ve been described as tasting like a cross between an apricot and a mango, though a friend of mine has some growing on his property that he describes as being reminiscent of papayas.
However you describe them, they are unlike other common fruit, but this is not to overstate their flavor: their taste is subtle, which is also why it’s so easy to eat copious amounts of them. Everyone I’ve introduced loquats to, upon tasting them, has a similar reaction; something along the lines of “wow these are really good—why have I never eaten one before?“
Since the time my daughter was an infant, one of our rituals was for me to put her on my shoulders and walk around our neighborhood and pick the fruits growing alongside the sidewalk, which in Los Angeles constitutes a veritable farmers’ market full of edible things. On our bike ride to her daycare when she was just three years old, we came upon a loquat tree whose fruit were so big, juicy and delicious that I was certain I had found the perfect tree among the hundreds I had encountered in my life.
For that brief two-week period when they were at peak ripeness, we would stop and pick some to eat every day before I’d drop her off. I thought they were so good that I decided I was going to sprout some of the seeds from this most ideal expression of the fruit and plant them in the yard of my Venice Beach house. I sprouted the seeds in individual red Solo cups like the kind you drink beer out of at a frat party, and after a couple of weeks sprouts shot out of the soil in each of them, and within another couple of weeks they’d turned into plants that were ready to be put into the ground. Over the years the trees grew healthfully and after about five years began bearing fruit. The tree continued to grow tall and wide, with large bunches of bulbous orange fruit, even better than the tree I’d taken the seeds from.
From my own backyard, these perfect loquats are the source for the juice that I concentrate and blend with our organic full-spectrum hemp extract and the finest all-natural plant based ingredients to make our limited seasonal Hit! Loquat Gummies. Because loquat season is short and I only want to present the highest expression of the fruit, we only sell them in limited amounts for a very short time. I hope you love them as much as I do.
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