Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)

The loquat is one of my dependable fruit - I can count on it every year, even when we sometimes get a freeze or two. This is strange, because the flowers just start to bloom here in Florida around the beginning of December, as the photo shows above.
Indigenous to China, the loquat is a "subtropical" plant. http://www.cfrg.org states that established trees can tolerate a low temperature of 12° F.
My first introduction to the fruit occured in Italy. I was surprised to learn that "Nespola" (as they are referred to in Italy), are grown in Spain, Israel, Japan, and even Brazil.
side note: I have found, however, that many Italians use the word nespola for the Royal Medlar, Mespilus germanica, which is a completely different fruit, not a loquat. look here: http://www.albanesi.it/Alimentazione/cibi/nespola.htm for a photo of a Royal Medlar, but incorrectly stating that it is Eriobotrya japonica. Loquats are orange, not brown (unless rotting).
As shown in today's blog photo, the lowers are white and small. Unfortunately for you, you'll miss their sweet fragrance. The fruit are orange, and can vary from oval to round 1 to 2 inches long. Inside are shiny brown seeds, about 4 or 5 per fruit. Eaten too early, the tangy flesh is almost acidy. When ripe, the flesh can be anywhere from white to yellow to orange.
An excellent description of the different cultivars of loquats can be found here: http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/loquat.html
A PDF discussing the loquat's use as an ornamental tree in the FL landscape is available here: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/MG/MG05000.pdf

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