We’re harvesting loquats

Loquats have a peach-like flavor, and one to several seeds in the center. Eriobotrya japonica.

April is loquat season in North Florida, and everywhere you look, golden yellow-orange clumps of these fruits are ripening around here. Lots of people use this evergreen Asian tree in landscaping, so there’s plenty of free fruit available. The loquat trees used in landscaping have generally not been selected for fruit characteristics, so quality is variable: occasionally a tree may have small and/or sour fruit, but on most trees the fruits are pretty good, and on some trees they are excellent.

There are also a number of named-variety loquat cultivars that have been selected for fruit quality, and they generally make larger, sweeter fruit. Good named varieties include ‘Novak’, ‘Christmas’, ‘Shambala’, ‘SES2’, ‘Champagne’, and ‘Tori’. Well-grown, fully matured and ripened fruits of these types are quite comparable to a good sweet peach, with some people detecting hints of cherry or mango flavor.

Freshly harvested loquats. I find it’s easiest to clip clusters of fruit, then snip the stems off each fruit. Loquat is Eriobotrya japonica.

Another traditional name for loquat in Florida is “Japanese Plum”. When I first moved to Florida, I had a number of potted fruit trees of various types dangling fruits. A group of kids from the neighborhood were fascinated by this, and they’d come around regularly to check out the developing fruits. With pretty much every species of fruit, they’d point to it and ask, “Is that a Japanese plum?” I’d never heard that name before, and I had no idea what they were talking about, till I realized that Japanese plum was another term for loquat. These kids had already developed a fond relationship with this fruit in their early, formative years.

My neighbor Lyle has a small planting of grafted “Shambala” loquat trees that are ripening lots of fruit, that’s what’s in these pictures. He is selling them at the downtown Gainesville Farmers Market, Wednesdays 4-7pm.

Harvesting loquats. Eriobotrya japonica.

Recently I posted some loquat pictures to Instagram, and several people reported that loquats in their areas (Southern California, Central Mexico, Australia, and Hawaii) have thick, leathery skins that need to be peeled before eating. I have never encountered that – every loquat I’ve ever eaten has had a thin, delicate skin, and I eat them skin and all. I have no idea if it’s some loquat varieties which have thick leathery skins, or if that characteristic develops in certain climate regions. If you have any experience with this trait, please leave a comment about whether loquats in your area have thin or thick skins.

As loquats ripen, they turn from green to yellow, then to a yellow-orange. I find that at the yellow stage, they’re still kind of tart. The best flavor occurs (at least to my taste) when they reach the yellow-orange stage, when they have a rich, sweet, peachy taste and texture.

#Rosaceae #loquat #Eriobotryajaponica


18 thoughts on “We’re harvesting loquats

  1. I am looking for some loquats plants to purchase. Do you sell them or know of anyone that may. I’m in the Bradford County area closer to Gainesville. I just sold my home and all my loquats are now gone with it. I love the foliage they provide also. Great for bordering your yard. And great screen privacy. Thank!

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    1. Of the loquat varieties we grow in North Florida, variety ‘Shambala’ would probably be best for attempting to grow in a cooler climate, as it sometimes has a fall crop in addition to the spring crop. That’s an exciting report about the ‘Piera’ loquat. I can’t tell from the report what country the variety was grown in. That report appears to have been published in 2006, and in a quick Google search I don’t see any subsequent reports of anyone growing ‘Piera’. I wonder what kind of results they’ve gotten with it.

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      1. I would be very interested in Shambala, but unfortunately the only two places I have read of this variety are on your blog and on thesurvivalgardener.com. Not many people have it. Additionally, I live in Europe, so I’m not sure how I would be able to get any scion wood here. Do you know of anybody that is growing this variety overseas?

        According to what I’ve found online, Piera originated in Spain and is also grown in Silicy, Italy. I stumbled across a Spanish Germplasm Bank that has a description of the variety. Sadly they only work with firms and don’t share scion wood with private growers.

        http://www.ivia.gva.es/ca/banco-de-germoplasma-de-nispero
        http://www.ivia.gva.es/documents/161862582/163110574/EJ081_Piera.pdf/4573833b-5f12-43e2-922a-98466ec6881b

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        1. ‘Shambala’ is a local selection of loquat from Gainesville, Florida, so it’s very unlikely to have made it into collections overseas, at least under that name. (David Goodman of the Survival Gardener blog used to live in this area.) The story of that variety is kind of interesting. One of our friends lives at a farm/homestead in Gainesville called Shambala, and on the property there’s a big loquat tree that makes heavy crops of large, sweet fruit. We figured it was just a lucky chance seedling, and we propagated and distributed the cultivar locally, giving it the variety name ‘Shambala’. Subsequently we found out that the tree was planted by a woman who purchased it 30 years previously at a Tampa Rare Fruit Council plant sale. So it’s possible that ‘Shambala’ is identical to one of the other loquat cultivars already in circulation (unless it was a seedling). My friend Oliver thinks it’s very similar to ‘Novak’, and that they might be the same.

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      2. That’s an interesting story indeed 🙂 Could one still tell if there’s a graft line on trees that old?

        Do you know if ‘Novak’ also displays the same flowering habit, if it is similar to ‘Shambala’ in other aspects?

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        1. I checked with my friend Oliver, who’s the local loquat guru. He said it’s difficult to tell if there’s a graft line or not on that original ‘Shambala’ tree. He said that both ‘Shambala’ and ‘Novak’ have the same extended fruiting habit, and seem similar otherwise.

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  2. Loquot in our area (Northern NSW, Australia) are mostly old, un-named varieties left over from when the area was a gold field (and were most likely bought here by Chinese miners). They have a leathery skin, but I have never had a problem eating it. Over the years I have discovered that this tree is responsible for the spread of the subtropical rainforest here; the small fruit and pollen bats flock to the fruit when it bears and spend entire nights feasting, they drop seeds from other fruiting rainforest species while they are visiting. The loquot tree is not competitive at all and fosters the growth of these species under it’s protective canopy. I have found small patches of rainforest in hidden places with a loquot tree at the centre, and have witnessed the growth of many unplanted species under the tree in our yard (at a previous house).

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    1. Thanks for commenting, very interesting observations! Around here, I wouldn’t describe the skin of loquats as leathery. I wonder if you have different varieties, or if something about conditions there (maybe lower humidity?) makes the skin more leathery.
      And that’s fascinating about how loquat seems to act as a pioneer species promoting the development of local rain forest species. So often people portray all non-native species as being bad for local ecosystems, but the truth is often more complicated than that.

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  3. Hello, great information in your blog. I’m interested in acquiring scion wood from some cultivars/selections that I don’t yet have. I’m in S. Louisiana and see that you guys in Florida have some neat selections that look to have great qualities which I am searching for. Would love to get to know some of the Florida loquat growers to network and acquire some new varieties. Have lots of other plant material to trade.

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    1. Hi Jeffrey, thanks for the positive feedback on the blog. Probably the best place to connect with loquat growers in FL & elsewhere is a Facebook group, I think it’s titled something like Backyard Loquat Growers. There are ppl sharing scion wood of lots of excellent varieties there, and comparing notes on how the different varieties are doing for them. One person you can look for there is Oliver Moore – he’s got a fairly good collection of varieties.

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