Discover all there is to know about what loquats are and how to eat them in this one, detailed guide. From the flavor, where to find them, and their health benefits, there’s so much to love about loquats!
It was on a family trip to the Canary islands that I first discovered how delicious and wonderful fresh loquats were. We’d never seen them before, but the trees we drove past were filled with these orange-yellow fruits and we just had to stop and check them out.
Once we discovered what they were, it became a favorite family snack on that trip. The sweet flavor was delicious!
I wanted to learn more about these unique tropical stone fruits, and I’ve put everything I’ve discovered into one handy guide so I can share all about them with my readers.
What are Loquats?
Despite the similarities in name and color, the loquat is not at all related to kumquats. Kumquats are actually related to oranges, while loquats are a Japanese plum. They’re a stone fruit, much like apricots or peaches.
The loquat, sometimes called nispero, has either a smooth or fuzzy thin, edible skin and firm but tender and moist flesh with either one or several large pits in the middle.
They’re native to tropical regions of China but are now grown in other parts of the world that have warm climates like Australia, Hawaii, or Florida. They appear in abundance during the spring.
The fruit is delicate and quick to bruise, so they’re not often grown commercially. Instead, they are a specialty crop from local orchards, or a backyard, homegrown type of fruit.
The trees are actually so productive, the lucky people who have their own have a hard time finding enough uses for them!
Unless you’re interested in planting a loquat tree, looking for specific varieties may not be possible. The different types both look and taste very similar to each other.
The main differences are that some varieties are rounded, while others have a more oval shape. Some contain one or two large pits, while others have several smaller ones.
Regardless of the variety, they’re often just sold as ‘loquats’ and you likely won’t have any idea which type you’re eating unless you can speak to the grower directly. But don’t worry, they’re all delicious!
Health Benefits – The Fruit and Leaves
Like most fresh fruit, there are tons of health benefits from choosing a loquat to snack on. They’re low calorie and contain numerous minerals and nutrients like Vitamin A, B6, magnesium, potassium, and beta carotene.
But they’ve also been used for a long time in Chinese medicine. They’re believed to increase heart health, have anticancer properties, and help with some respiratory issues. Most of the medicinal applications are made with the leaves, seeds, and skins, rather than the fresh fruit.
You may be able to find extracts or teas at holistic or Asian markets. But be cautious, both the seeds and the leaves can be toxic when consumed in very high volumes, so consult with a professional before you dive into those.
Personally I prefer to just eat as much of the fresh fruit as possible! They’re great for you and taste even better.
When and Where to Buy Loquats
Unlike most stone fruit, the season for loquats is in the early spring rather than the end of summer. The trees bloom over the winter and clusters of yellow-orange fruit begin to appear by spring. The season is short too, only lasting until the beginning of summer.
Unfortunately, fresh loquats are a very delicate fruit that don’t hold up well to shipping, so odds are you won’t be able to find it fresh unless they’re grown locally to you. Even then, they won’t appear in any mainstream grocery store.
Your best chance at buying fresh loquats is to find an orchard that grows them near you, a local farmer’s market, or a neighbor who’s got more than they know what to do with!
If you can find an orchard, picking them yourself is easy and fun. Go for fully yellow, slightly soft fruits and either clip the stem, or gently twist them free from the tree.
If you have no luck finding them locally, you may be able to find canned loquats in Asian markets.
What Does a Loquat Taste Like?
Loquats are really interesting in a very tasty way, like a cross between cherries and apricots. They’re sweet, with just enough juice to make them moist, and have a mild tang that might remind you of citrus.
How to Eat Loquats
That flavor is easy to enjoy raw and they can be eaten like any other stone fruit. Enjoy them whole, like you would an apple, or slice them. Just be aware that the flesh will oxidize soon after being cut. The seeds are not edible, but the skin is. However, it’s also easily peeled away if you prefer.
Aside from snacking on them fresh, there are tons of ways that loquats can be used in different applications. They’re delicious blended into juices, smoothies, and vinaigrettes, and are sometimes even fermented into wine. They can also be sliced over green salads, or even made into ice creams or sorbets.
But loquats are delicious cooked as well. Due to their high pectin content, they’re popular in preserves like jams, jellies, or chutneys, and pair well with many spices. But they can also be baked into pies, cobblers, and cakes.
Really, any way that you use stone fruit can become a delicious loquat recipe too!
I hope you’re as excited and intrigued by loquats as my family was when we first encountered them. They’re delicious, unique, and a really healthy snack. Good luck finding them near you and trying them in as many ways as you can!