Loquat / Nespera Time is Here
|Ripe Loquat (or Nespera), Spain / Portugal variety, about 5cm (1.75 inch)|
A Lesser-Known Tasty Fruit, available nearly worldwideI first encountered the Loquat, which grows on an evergreen shrub or tree, while in Houston, Texas. There were plenty of the bushes growing around the neighborhoods, and it seemed like nearly everyone owned the plants just for the lovely sweet-smelling fragrant flowers — I only encountered one other person in the neighborhood that actually ate the fruit.
Since then, I have become quite a fan of a good loquat (or nespera, níspero, nespolo in Porgugal, Spain, and Italy respectively), and the varieties grown in the southwest of the European Union region are just wonderful. The Loquat cultivars I found in Texas produced fruit that were perhaps an inch in diameter, which didn't leave much actual fruit after removing the group of large seeds in the middle. But, as pictured above, these Spanish and Portuguese varieties get quite substantial — nearly 2 inches in diameter — and, even more importantly, they may best be described as simply succulent.
Loquat Taste, Texture, Nutrition ProfileI quite enjoy the rather distinct flavor and texture of loquats. I consume the thin outer skin along with the slightly tangy flesh, but I first cut them in half and remove the inner seed ovules and the thin membrane around the seeds. The flesh has a mildly acidic, semi-citrus-like flavor profile — perhaps quite similar to a ripe mango — that combines with flavors of peach or even a hint of apple, or at least that is my opinion. The flavor is complex and enjoyable for its unique mix of characteristics.
Since the plants grow in many different regions of the world, you may be lucky enough to find them at your local grocery or simply growing on a tree nearby, and this would be the time of the year (in the northern hemisphere) when you should start seeing the lovely orange fruits ripening.
Another gluten-free treat that is healthy to eat! The fruit have a fair amount of Vitamin-A, Vitamin B6, Potassium, and Manganese, as well as some other trace minerals and vitamins. Combine that with the enjoyable taste, and the loquat is an all around winner. As for the loquat price: this depends quite a bit on where you are and whether any commercialization of the fruit even exists. In Houston, TX, I never saw them in the stores and instead had to go looking for friends with the trees in their yards where I could pick some. In Spain, Portugal, and the Mediterranean region, they are quite easy to find at a grocery or fruit stand, and depending on the time of the picking-season, they may range from the USD ($) equivalent of $1-1.50 per pound, which is quite reasonable.
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