Whole Fish

Gulf Seafood + Southern Food

Ask anybody: I’ll tell you how, I’ll tell you when, I’ll tell you where and how often.

I’m really an open book when it comes to what I do every day. I love knowledge and learning about food and enjoy surrounding myself with like-minded individuals; sharing that knowledge is how we all grow. However, there are a few exceptions. Some things just become counter-productive when you share. For example, concerning fishing, I’ll tell you how and where I caught ‘em, but only if I’m not going out tomorrow or the day after. Or my A-plus Kitchen repair guy; you know, I’d love to give you Will’s number, but he’s too busy as it is and, baby, when my freezer goes down…well, you can imagine. And inner-city foraging; OK, so not everyone has a need for this information, but you are f#*king crazy if you think I’m giving up my Loquat locales.

Childhood food recollections are what I am all about, just check out my menu; collards, chicken and dumplings, gumbo and yeast rolls from Birdie-Bea and Ma Daigle, my Grandmothers. Redfish on the half-shell and love of all things mayonnaise from Olin “Swede” Augustus Caswell, my Grandfather. And foraging as a child growing up in Houston: scraping honeysuckle through my teeth, picking dewberries from a vacant lot, and the motherload of Spring…Loquats.

The Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is part of the Rose (Rosaceae) family, whose members include apples, pears, quince and most stone fruit (like cherries, plums, apricots and even almonds).

An evergreen tree (one of the reasons I believe it is so prolific in Houston), the Loquat’s oval, cherry-sized, pear-shaped fruits grow in clusters, with a fuzzy peach-like skin and a tart apricot-like mouth feel. Ripening only on the vine, Loquats will hang tight in refrigeration for about a week, but quickly become bruised if not left on the stem. They contain a high amount of pectin so lend themselves well to jellies, either solo or with a partner. The seeds definitely need to be removed before cooking because they contain a small amount of Cyanogenetic Glycocices, which releases cyanide when digested, which is bad. Interestingly, when you eat the fruit in large quantities, it produces a calming sedative effect for up to 24 hours, which can be good (depending on your affinities).

The Loquat is of Chinese origin and was introduced and naturalized into Japan over 1,000 years ago. It was also naturalized into India and written about in Portugese literature before the Age of Discovery (that was the freakin’ 15th century!) and thought to have been brought to Hawaii by Chinese immigrants; I imagine it was introduced into Houston by way of Hawaii. The most interesting thing is, aside from a few mail order websites, I have never seen Loquats in a grocery store and rarely at the farmers’ markets.

The most important thing to know is that the Loquat LOVES Houston. Once you know what they look like, you too can keep watch on your Loquat locales, and come Spring, check on them daily for ripeness. But if you see me hanging out by a tree in your neighborhood, be ready to tussle.

Loquat and CardAmom PRESERVES recipe

1 quart of Loquats, washed and seeded (discard all seeds)

1 1/2 cups water

1 1/2 cup sugar

8 each toasted cardamom pods

In a saucepan over low-medium heat, dissolve the sugar in water, then add the loquats and cook until the fruit has become transparent. Stir frequently to keep from burning.

Spoon into hot canning jars and top with lids. Tip - a good way to guarantee that your jars get a good seal, place them in your dishwasher (after you fill and put the top on) and run the hottest cycle (without soap, of course!).


Nishta Mehra said...

my mom is from India & when she first came to visit me my freshman year at Rice, she was amazed at all of the loquats that went un-picked in this town. she taught me to eat, pickle, & preserve them, too--thanks for the reminder that it's time to visit my favorite loquat foraging spot!

mer said...

I grew up scouring my neighborhood as a kid for these trees. A steady diet through spring and early summer of loquats, mulberries, and tiny mandarin oranges.
I just found a loquat tree down the street from my house a couple weeks ago and I've been keeping an eye on it.

Jim Gossen said...

I like the dishwasher tip Bryan!

Anonymous said...

i grew up with my gram making loquat jelly....the best ever!

Amydell said...

If you need more- email me- there is a huge tree of them in my back yard by my kiddos playhouse. We cant/dont care to scale the tree to get to the top. What the kids can grab and reach- they can eat. All the others usually rot.

melissa said...

Houston Press said this post contained "all you need to know" about loquats. There is one VERY important piece of information that is missing: you can also make a VERY delicious pie out of them. :d I took about 4 cups of fruit (halved and seeded, with the peel on) and 1 cup of sugar, cooked them down with some spices until the fruit was soft, and then baked in a double pie crust. It's quite delicious.

Analog Girl said...

I love loquats and cardamom, so must try this - thanks for idea! I first ate them in South Africa, where I spent several years as a child. Delightful surprise when I moved her & found them!! It's not often I get to re-experience childhood memories moving around as I did. Unfortunately everyone in our neighborhood Does pick them. Now if only I could find a mulberry tree...

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