Loquat: Getting A Grip on Grappa

by Green Deane

in Alcohol, Fruits/Berries, Jam/Jelly, Medicinal, Recipes

loquats

The fruit ripens from tart to very sweet

Lovin’ Loquats: Eriobotryae Japonicae

Long before there were couch potatoes there were couch Loquats.

Loquats are homebodies. Most people who live beyond the growing range of the Loquat usually have never eaten a fresh one, having to settle for canned representatives. Loquats just don’t travel well. They bruise easily and loose their freshness quickly, much like a rose, its distant relative. From the tree to the kitchen is almost the maximum distance they will endure. Tree to tummy is the best. The state of Florida says they will keep several weeks in the refrigerator, but my experience is by then they look like large, lumpy raisins.

Although called the Japanese Plum, the Loquat is not native to Japan nor is it a plum. It’s extremely popular in Japan and has been cultivated there for at least 1,000 years. Despite the name, the Loquat is actually from southern China, where in Cantonese it is called Luh Kwat (hence Loquat.) Translated that means “reed orange” or “rush orange” or in other words it likes to grow where it is wet. That seems more poetic than true because here in Florida they grow where ever a bird drops the seed, wet or dry, hence they have become naturalized. If you have a Loquat tree, you will have dozens of Loquatlings. By the way, at least  four different species of fruit-eating bats also do their best to spread and fertilize Loquat seeds.

In Mandarin Loquat is called “Pipa”  because its shape resembles a musical instrument, the Pipa, which is pot-bellied like lute.  In Japan the same mind set held sway and Loquat is called Biwa, after the musical instrument of the same shape. Pipa/biwa, too close for pentatonic or verbal chance.

The Loquat fruit is more like an apricot than a plum. It’s one of those inexplicable linguisticism that in English we refer to Japan’s apricot-like fruit as a “plum” but their plum –ume—we call a Japanese apricot, which it is not. That does not make a lot of sense. It makes you wonder if a couple of pages of an early botany book book were transposed. Incidentally, the kumquat and the Loquat are not related botanically, but both share an origin in old Chinese names.  Kumquat means “golden orange.”

The Loquat tree is unusual in that it blossoms in the fall or early winter, and fruits in early winter or spring.  Its blossoms were used to make perfumes in the 1950s. The quality of the perfume was said to be outstanding, but the yield was low and not commercially viable. Some individuals suffer headache when too close to a Loquat tree in bloom, the aroma from the flowers sweet and penetrating.

loquats

Loquats can bloom in the fall or early winter

My Loquat tree blossoms around Christmas and I have edible fruit by St. Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day. It varies.  Loquats were introduced to Florida in 1867 and the tree fruits as far north as South Carolina. The wood is pink, hard, close-grained, and medium-heavy. It is good for making rulers and bokkens. Bokkens? In Japanese martial arts the practice sword — the bokken — was often made of Loquat wood because it was hard but also brittle, perhaps a realistic substitute for swords which then could be brittle. Legend says a wound caused by a Loquat bokken will not heal and the victim will die. There is no report of what happen to wounds caused by a Loquat ruler in the hands of an old-fashion teacher, of which I had several.

I planted my Loquat tree some 13 years ago and it has been fruiting heavily for seven years. Following the suggestion of local experts, the tree is pruned to resemble a bowl, which increases production, up to 300 pounds of fruit a season. The sweet/tart yellow pear-shaped fruit is a sign of winter, eh, or spring, depending upon which cultivar you have. Many recipes are included below, or just use apricot recipes.

Botanically in the same family with apples, pears, peaches, nectarines et cetera, the Loquat‘s scientific name is Eriobotryae japonica (air-ee-oh-BOT-ree-uh juh-PAWN-ih-kuh). Japonica means Japan and Eriobotryae is bastardized Greek — read Latinized Greek — meaning “woolly bunch of grapes.”  Loquats grow on thick fuzzy stems in a cluster like grapes. There is no controversy that the fruit is tasty. The slippery seeds, however, are another issue.

Like many pome members of the rose family, the seeds contain small amounts of cyanogenetic glycosides. That’s almost as bad as it sounds.  Said another way, in the gut this can make minute amounts of cyanide that the body can tolerate. This is also known as amygdalin or laetrile, also called B17, a controversial alternative medicine treatment for cancer, usually obtained from apricot pips. This would all be an almost dismissible interesting factoid if all we did was spit the seeds out, or occasionally let an ingested whole seed go on its merry alimentary way. But, then there is flavoring with the seeds, roasting the seeds, and lastly, Loquat grappa, which is made from the seeds. I should say, Loquat grappa is homemade. I know of no commercial Loquat grappa. There are some Loquat-flavored liquors but they have a different taste profile completely. They taste like Loquats. Loquat grappa does not taste like Loquats.

Loquat grappa is made by soaking Loquat seeds in vodka or grain alcohol for one to six months and then adding sugar water to the infusion. The longer you let it sit, the darker and stronger flavored it becomes. The odd part is Loquat grappa made this way has a very strong cherry flavor and aroma. Is Loquat grappa poisonous?  That is a good question. Certain Indian tribes would leech cyanic glycosides out of seeds of related plants then eat the ground up seeds. If the glycosides can been leached out by water, then one would think vodka, which is half water, would leech it from the seeds to the vodka, and alcohol is a good solvent. Then again, it might not be chemically possible. If the toxin is an oil — an acid — it might not mix with water or alcohol. Perhaps a chemist will let us know. I can volunteer some Loquat grappa for science.  So while some toxicity would make sense in some amount, it is an unknown.  I’ve never seen more than four ounces drank at a time. It seems to be tolerated at that level, producing only expected effects.  I make two “fifths” a year of it and it lasts until the next season.  If you follow either of the Loquat grappa recipes included below and make your own, you’re on your own: No guarantees or promises of safety included. Consume sparingly. Oh, adding a section of cinnamon bark to the final grappa bottle adds some very nice flavor.

That said, the non-bitter roasted seeds are reported to be tasty — I’m not sure I would eat one but there are people who do, apparently — and some folks put a few seeds in the cavity of a chicken before roasting to impart a nice flavor. The roasted seeds when ground are said to be a good substitute for coffee. (I think I’ll pass on that, for two reasons: One is the debatable safety of the seeds. The other is every seed coffee extender or substitute I’ve ever had is awful, including the queen of substitutes, roasted ground persimmon seeds. )

Besides amygdalin, the seeds also have lipids, sterol, b-sitosterol, triglycerides, sterolester, diglycerides and compound lipids; and fatty acids, mainly linoleic, palmitic, linolenic and oleic. Amygdalin is also in the fruit peel, but slightly. The leaves possess a mixture of triterpenes, also tannin,  in addition, there are traces of arsenic. (Arsenic And Old Loquat?) Young leaves contain saponin. The leaves and seeds are also used in Chinese medicine, as is the fruit, which has vitamins A, B, and C. The Loquat is still one of the most popular cough remedies in the Orient, and is the ingredient of many patent medicines.

One other warning: Do not eat a green, uncooked Loquats. They taste awful and there is one case on record of several stupefying a five-year old for two hours.  Loquat pie made with greenish, not-quite-ripe fruit, however, supposedly taste like cherry pie….

Recipes:

Loquat Grappa

Soak one to two quarts of clean, whole Loquat seeds in a tight jar with a quart of vodka for one to six months. At the end of soaking time, drain the now flavored vodka and split it evenly between two fifth bottles. On the stove create sugar water by mixing equal parts of sugar and water. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Top off each fifth with the sugar water. If you want it less sweet use less sugar, or more vodka.

 

Loquat wine

4 lbs fresh loquats

2 lbs granulated sugar

1 tsp acid blend

1 gallon water

1 crushed Campden tablet

1/2 tsp pectic enzyme

1/2 tsp grape tannin

wine yeast and nutrient

Wash fruit and remove seeds. Chop the fruit finely or roughly in a blender. Pour fruit over half the sugar, crushed Campden tablet, tannin, yeast nutrient, and enough water to total one gallon in primary, stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Cover with cloth. After 12 hours, add pectic enzyme and recover. After another 12 hours, add wine yeast and recover. Stir daily, adding half the remaining sugar after three days. Ferment on pulp another four days, stirring daily. Strain through nylon jelly bag and squeeze well to extract juice. Pour remaining sugar into juice, juice into secondary, and fit airlock. Siphon liquor off sediments into clean secondary after 30 days, topping up as needed. Repeat racking every 30 days until wine clears (3-4 additional rackings). Rack once more and taste. If satisfied with sweetness, bottle the wine. If too dry, add stabilizer and sweeten to taste, adding up to 1/4 cup sugar dissolved in 1/4 cup water.  Age

 

Here is a second Loquat grappa recipe from the internet.

Dry 200g of Loquat seeds in sun for a week. Put in a bottle with 400g spirit grain alcohol, a piece of lemon rind and a piece of vanilla bean. Keep covered in sun for 1 month, shaking it occasionally. Prepare syrup of 300g sugar and 300g water. Boil, then when cool mix with spirit, filter and bottle. Keep to season at least two months before drinking.

And, Loquat Jam

1 kg loquats, seeds removed but fruit not peeled

200 ml water

Finely grated rind and juice of 2 lemons

Simmer fruit in water till soft. mash well or put it through the blender. add juice and rind and sugar; boil rapidly till a little sets on a cold saucer. Bottle and seal.

More Loquat Jam

Wash, remove seeds, and blossom ends from whole ripe fruit. Run through food chopper and measure pulp. Barely cover with cold water. Cook until tender and deep red. Add 3/4 cup sugar to 1 cup of Loquat pulp. Cook until thick, stirring constantly. Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal with sterilized lids. It is best to cook small batches of no more than 5 cups of fruit pulp in one kettle.

Loquat Jelly

With Pectin

5 lbs. ripe loquats

1 cup water

1/2 cup lemon juice 1 package pectin

5-1/2 cups sugar

Gather Loquats when full size. Wash, remove seeds, and blossom ends. Barely cover with cold water. Simmer covered for 15 minutes Cook slowly until pulp is very soft. Strain juice through jelly bag. Measure 3-1/2 cups Loquat juice and lemon juice in a large kettle. if more juice is needed, fill last cup or fraction of a cup with water. Add pectin. Stir well. Place over high heat and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Add the sugar and mix well. Continue stirring and bring to full rolling boil. Boil exactly 2 minutes. Remove from fire and let boiling subside. Skim carefully. Pour into hot sterilized jelly glasses, leaving 1/2-inch space at top to cover at once with melted paraffin. (Or pour into hot sterilized jars and seal with sterilized lids.)

Loquat Jelly

No Added Pectin

Gather Loquats when full size. Wash, remove seeds, and blossom ends. Barely cover with cold water. Cook slowly until pulp is very soft. Strain through jelly bag. Drain and cook until juice is thick then add an equal amount of sugar. Boil rapidly to jelly stage. Pour into sterilized jelly glasses, leaving 1/2-inch space at top to cover at once with melted paraffin. (Or pour into hot sterilized jars and seal with sterilized lids.)

 

Spiced Loquats

For three pints of sweet pickles, wash three pounds of firm loquats and remove the stem and blossom ends; do not peel them. Drop them into the pickling syrup given below and cook until tender. Remove the fruit. Pour remaining syrup into sterilized jars. Fill almost to overflowing with the hot syrup and seal at once.

3 cups sugar

1-1/2 cups water

1-1/2 cups cider vinegar

1 tablespoon whole cloves

1 tablespoon whole allspice

2-inch stick of cinnamon

Combine sugar, water, and vinegar in a large kettle. Tie the spices loosely in cheesecloth and add. Boil 10 minutes. Put in fruit and cook gently until tender. This syrup may be used for apricots, peaches, pears, apples, crab apples, plums, loquats, and kumqats

 

Loquat Chutney

Use the kiwi fruit chutney recipe, but substitute peeled, seeded loquats for kiwi fruit

 

Blanched Loquats

To peel loquats for sauce and fruit cup, blanch by pouring boiling water over loquats to cover. Add 1/4 cup lemon juice to each quart of water. Cook over low heat about 5 minutes, just until skin loosen. Drain and reserve liquid. Cool, peel, halve, and seed loquats (remove seeds).

 

Loquat Sauce for Ice Cream

Combine two cups juice from blanched loquats with two cups sugar. (see Blanching above) Bring to boil, cook over medium heat until syrup spins a two-inch thread when dropped from a spoon (230 degrees to 234 degrees Farenheit on candy thermometer), about 20 minutes. Cool completely. Add two cups peeled, halved, seeded loquats. Chill, then serve over ice cream. Makes about three cups sauce.

 

Sugar and Spice Loquats

Sprinkle seeded (peeled if you want) fruit with granulated sugar. Mix cream cheese with powdered sugar and cinnamon and put in cavity. Top with a cut piece of strawberry.

 

BLOG NOTE: I have made the follow pie without seeds and it it is quite tasty.

Loquat Pie

8  cups loquats

1/2 cup water

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ginger

1/8 teaspoon allspice

pastry for a double crust pie

Stem, wash and cut up loquats, leaving a few seeds for flavor, (When the pie is baked, the seeds taste almost like nuts and are really very good).  Cook the loquats in water, covered, for about 10 minutes or until almost tender.

Combine the sugar, flour, salt, ginger and allspice.  Stir in the loquats.  Cook, stirring, until thickened.  Remove from the heat and cool.

Pour into a pie plate containing the bottom pie crust.  Cover with the top crust and prick with a fork or put a few cuts in the top crust to allow steam to escape while baking.

Bake at 450 degrees “F” for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees “F” for another 45 minutes.

Cool and serve..  With Vanilla bean ice-cream, and a light rum sauce..

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The following recipes come from Marian Van Atta, whom I knew in the early 80’s. She had a newspaper column called Living off the Land. She looked home-spun and back to nature long before it was posh, a portly Mom Nature. She has a book, also available at Amazon: “Exotic Foods, a Kitchen and Garden Guide.” Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1561642150/californirarefru

 

Fresh Loquat Relish

1 cup of loquats, cut in half and seeded

2 or three calamondins (quartered and seeded)

1/4 cup honey

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup raisins

Put all ingredients in a blender and chop for a minute or so. Put in a covered jar and store in the refrigerator. Will last at least a week.

 

Martha’s Loquat Pie

3 cups loquats, seeded and sliced

3/4 cups sugar, less if fruit is very ripe

2 tablespoons flour.

Mix loquats, sugar and flour together. Put in unbaked 9-inch pie crust. Cover with top crust and slash for steam vents. Bank at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce to 350 degrees. Bake until crust is browned, about 35 more minutes.

 

You can also dry Loquats. Cut in half, remove seeds, prick skin with fork, dry accordingly.

 

Loquat Food Value Per 100 g of Edible Portion

Calories 168

Protein 1.4 g

Fat 0.7 g

Carbohydrates 43.3 g

Calcium 70 mg

Phosphorus 126 mg

Iron 1.4 mg

Potassium 1,216 mg

Vitamin A 2,340 I.U.

Ascorbic Acid 3 mg

 

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION:

Evergreen large shrub or small tree, rounded crown, short trunk, woolly new twigs. Leaves alternate, simple, 10-25 cm long, dark green, tough, leathery, toothed edge, velvety-hairy below.

TIME OF YEAR:

Culitvars vary, some fruit in spring, some fruit in late summer or fall.

ENVIRONMENT:

It likes heat and full sun,  will survive said if watered. Naturalized in many areas.

METHOD OF PREPARATION:

Yellow fruit raw or cooked, seeds can be used to make a cherry-flavored liquor.

If you would like to donate to Eat The Weeds please click here.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 G. Raymond March 30, 2012 at 22:08

Thx for the loquat info and recipe; I just wanted to ask you to post a link in the loquat article to the kiwi chutney recipe, I couldn’t find it @ your site. Thank you.

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2 Green Deane April 3, 2012 at 17:45

I clearly forgot to include it. I will have to add it. Thanks.

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3 Joyce June 22, 2012 at 11:42

Thanks for the article. By the way, is it possible to flavor wine with loquat seeds, and if so, should they be added while the wine is fermenting, or afterwards?

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4 Green Deane June 23, 2012 at 17:57

If I were to use loquat seeds while making wine I would add them during the secondary fermentation (after the primary fermentation but removed before bottling.)

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5 Ches' Wisdom August 19, 2012 at 12:47

how long are the seeds good for bc i have had mine since feb/march they are only dried up p i planned to make the grappe after i saw greene deane video but i had to move and never made the grappe but i still have the seeds, can i still make the grappe with these seeds or should i wait and get new seeds..

∞thnx∞
ches’ wisdom

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6 Green Deane August 27, 2012 at 14:56

The short answer is I don’t know. I’ve always used fresh seeds.

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7 Anne K February 10, 2013 at 13:01

My husband wants to know the approximate number of average sized loquat plums it would take to make 100 grams after the seeds and skin have been removed. Any guesses?

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8 Green Deane February 10, 2013 at 18:43

Four or five in an average season.

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9 andy February 11, 2013 at 15:35

I’d say somewhere around 15

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10 Sasquatch February 14, 2013 at 02:32

A friend of mine brought a small bag’s worth in to work a couple of days ago as a snack and suggested I try one. After a few samples (and by few I mean most of his stash) he pointed me to both this site and the cluster of trees growing just down the road.
I’m curious as to why these aren’t cultivated and available at most stores, they’re delicious!

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11 Green Deane February 14, 2013 at 06:59

They don’t travel well, bruise easily. You can buy them canned in some Asian markets. They also dehydrate very well.

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12 Yosefa @nonrecipe April 2, 2013 at 17:16

Thanks for the recipes! I grew up with a in S.FL with a loquat tree, until a tropical storm took it down. Now I live in Israel where they are just coming into season. The tree outside our window is FULL of sweet loquats that will need to be picked in the next couple weeks. Huge loquats are also sold all over, but they are not as sweet as the ones you pick from the neighborhood trees.

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13 Green Deane April 3, 2013 at 07:21

I just did a video on dehydrating loquats. On You Tube.

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14 Gerry Seely April 13, 2013 at 09:53

i would like to be put on your emailing address for your news letters thanks.
by the way I just watched a loquat video and liked it wiil be watching eat the weeds more often.

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15 Green Deane April 14, 2013 at 22:19

You can sign up by going to the home page, look on the upper right hand side.

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16 Terry G. May 26, 2013 at 13:06

We live in coastal southern California, so our loquats ripen May-June. Yesterday we harvested our young tree. After peeling & seeding, I had about 6 cups of loquats. Wanted to cook them, but not necessarily into a sweet marmalade, so went out to get a lemon to slice into them. On the way to the lemon tree, the kumquat tree beckoned! I picked 6 of them, halved them the long way, scooped out the insides, thinly sliced the rinds & added them to the pot. (Instead of the lemon.) Then I thinly sliced about 6 pieces of candied ginger and about 1/2 cup of dried Morello cherries, cut in half, and added those in. Just covered the fruit with water and added about 2/3 cup of medium agave syrup. Cooked that down slowly until the liquid was reduced by half. Wow! What a great fruit cup! Paired with a cheese plate (maybe a mild blue, a creamy chevret, a white cheddar & a havarti), crackers or thinly sliced, toasted baguette rounds and a glass of prosecco, voignier, or even sparkling apple cider, a few friends, and you’ve got yourself a pleasant get-together!

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17 Jenny W July 26, 2013 at 13:17

I enjoyed reading your article about loquats. I loved eating these as an exchange student in China more than ten years ago and have searched and searched for them in the states ever since. Now I know why my searches have never been successful. Maybe the next time I’m in Florida will coincide with loquat season and I finally be able to taste that yummy fruit again. I wonder if it will be as good as I remember it was?

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18 fromCali April 22, 2014 at 14:44

Not just Florida. I live in San Jose CA and a lot of my neighbors have loquat trees.

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19 Green Deane April 23, 2014 at 12:12

My site is not just about FLorida. Most of the plant on it are found it most of North America.

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20 Loretta November 27, 2013 at 09:12

I live in Virginia Beach which is considered subtropical. My three year old Loquat is about to bloom but it is November 27th and the weather is hot and cold, hot and cold. Last year, I brought in my potted lemon tree but we never know what our winters will be like. My neighbor’s tree is flowering also and they’ve covered the blossoms with plastic grocery bags. So, is there a chance the flowers will survive the winter and that the fruit can set (there are no pollinators around but I can try to pollinate them)? Any thoughts or advice? Thank you. Loretta

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21 Green Deane November 27, 2013 at 12:37

Do you mean Virgina Beach, Virgina? I spent a winter in Norfolk where it snowed. I would not call that subtropical. If you mean Virgina Key south of Miami I would not worry about it. Loquats bloom in the fall for spring fruit.

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22 Loretta November 27, 2013 at 18:33

Hello again,

Yes, I mean Virginia Beach, VA. The new zoning category for our area is 8A and depending on who you ask, it is considered subtropical. The lemon tree I mentioned earlier…I forgot to say that I only brought it in once for a very short time during the last winter. We are oftentimes 40 or 50 degrees during the day in the winter. I’ll be hopeful that our winter is not too rough. Any suggestions for protecting the fruit…like our neighbors who put plastic bags over the flowers?

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23 Lauraleigh May 17, 2014 at 14:46

We have had our loquat tree here in hot sunny Las Vegas for several years. The problem we have is keeping the birds from eating them. We were told to cover the groupings of fruit with paper bags but that did not help. W use nylon stockings on our cherry tree which is very successful but the loquats are too large and tend to grow in bunches. Any advice? We have hundreds of loquats and will enjoy your recipes if we can harvest from the birds.

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24 Christiane November 22, 2014 at 01:18

I live in Australia Melbourne and have two beautiful loquat trees they give me a lot of fruits just before Chritmas around 25 kg we always enjoy the fresh fruits we share with friends but I did not know what to do with them we can only eat as much and a lot are left to the birds until I came across all the possibilities on this site ,thank you next year I will make some jam or jelly I don’t think I will be game to experience with grappa
Cheers

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25 Christiane November 22, 2014 at 01:34

On the smaller tree my husband has built with recycled PVC tubes a net cover. PVC tubes are flexible
the tubes rest on the ground and form a large cage then the net is placed over , he uses the white net placed on grapes ,the larger tree impossible to protect we share the fruits with the birds cockatoo or possums .

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26 Green Deane November 23, 2014 at 06:15

I had raiders on my loquat tree only once, and it was squirrels.

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