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3 April 2011

Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)

Figure 1: Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) fruit approaching maturity.


Figure 2: Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) ripe and unripe fruit on the tree.

The Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) fruit is approaching maturity and will soon be on sale at the greengrocers.  I took the above photographs using a zoom lens as the tree was growing in a private garden.  These trees are very popular and can often be seen growing in and around Tunis.  "The loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a fruit tree in the family Rosaceae, indigenous to southeastern China. It was formerly thought to be closely related to the genus Mespilus, and is still sometimes known as the Japanese medlar. It is also known as Japanese plum and as Chinese plum.


It is an evergreen large shrub or small tree, with a rounded crown, short trunk and woolly new twigs. The tree can grow to 5–10 m tall, but is often smaller, about 3–4 m.


Loquats are unusual among fruit trees in that the flowers appear in the autumn or early winter, and the fruits are ripe in late winter or early spring. The flowers are 2 cm diameter, white, with five petals, and produced in stiff panicles of three to ten flowers. The flowers have a sweet, heady aroma that can be smelled from a distance.

The loquat is comparable with its distant relative, the apple, in many aspects, with a high sugar, acid and pectin content. It is eaten as a fresh fruit and mixes well with other fruits in fresh fruit salads or fruit cups. Firm, slightly immature fruits are best for making pies or tarts. The fruits are also commonly used to make jam, jelly, and chutney, and are often served poached in light syrup.


Use
Loquat syrup is used in Chinese medicine for soothing the throat like a cough drop. The leaves, combined with other ingredients and known as pipa gao (枇杷膏; pinyin: pípágāo; literally "loquat paste"), it acts as a demulcent and an expectorant, as well as to soothe the digestive and respiratory systems. Loquats can also be used to make light wine.

 
Like most related plants, the seeds (pips) and young leaves of the plant are slightly poisonous, containing small amounts of cyanogenic glycosides (including amygdalin) which release cyanide when digested, though the low concentration and bitter flavour normally prevents enough being eaten to cause harm.


In Japan, it is eaten fresh or sometimes canned because the flesh is sweet. However, the waste ratio is 30% or more, due to the size of the seed. Among other things, it is processed to confectionery including jellies and the jam.

 
Eaten in quantity, loquats have a gentle but noticeable sedative effect, with effects lasting up to 24 hours.

 
It is also fermented into a fruit wine, sometimes using just the crystal sugar and white liquor. Lemon or lemon zest is often paired with the wine because the fruit has very low acidity. Aficionados also enjoy a sake made exclusively from the seed, which has an aroma much like apricot kernel. Due to the presence of cyanogenic glycosides, bulk consumption may pose a risk of cyanide poisonings.

Nutritional value
The loquat is low in saturated fat and sodium, and is high in vitamin A, dietary fiber, potassium, and manganese."
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