Loquats: Little-known relative of the apple and pear

As I walked through the office this morning, I saw a few loose fruits on my coworker’s desk. As I looked closer, I realized they were Loquats, a fruit that is a backyard favorite of mine. Also known as the May apple, the Loquat season is short, and most people never get a chance to taste them.

The outside skin resembles an apricot, as the color is a golden orange with a microscopic fuzz. However, Loquats are a member of the Pome family, which includes apples, pears and quince.

The inside flesh is firm, and according to my friend, David Karp, “The texture varies from the crispness of a firm cantaloupe to the juiciness of a ripe peach. The flavor is a pleasant blend of apricot, plum, and cherry, with floral overtones, and is quite sweet when ripe. If you like peaches, apricots, and plums, you’ll love Loquats.”

Loquats actually originate in China, but interestingly, they are also known as the Japanese Medlar or Japanese Plum. (OK, they are known as Chinese Plums, too.) In Italian, Loquats are called Nespole Giaponesse.

You probably won’t find fresh Loquats at your local grocery store because they are very delicate. When Frieda’s distribute Loquats, we have to fly them — they only last a few days after they start to ripen. The best place to find Loquats is a local ethnic market or gourmet shop that specializes in Mediterranean or Middle Eastern foods, or an Asian supermarket.

If you are lucky enough to find fresh Loquats, don’t be deterred if they show a little bruising or dark spots. These fruits are so delicate that even the most gentle handling of the fruit will leave small marks.

If you find them, enjoy them NOW, because the season is very short! (They typically mature in April and May.) If you live in Southern California, you might even have a neighbor with a Loquat tree. Maybe they will share with you!

But, be warned — Loquats have big brown inedible seeds on the inside and you may want to peel off the outside skin before consuming, as it is kind of tough.