The market is the perfect place to grab unusual food items you wouldn’t otherwise see. and unheard of fruit and vegetables are constantly waiting patiently for curious buyers to purchase. Sometimes, though, new food can be intimidating. Each month, I’ll pick a somewhat unpopular or rare food and write about it, with the hope that I’ll convince you to try it out. First up? The loquat.
When local farmer ’s daughter wanted to plant something herself at just 4 years old, she was given a loquat seed. She planted the strangely named seed next to a sprinkler, with hopes that the tree would thrive because of the “water supply.” She didn’t realize that an avocado tree had been previously planted there and died, a sure sign that planting something next to a sprinkler does not guarantee life. However, the loquat tree flourished and the Maciels are still picking and selling the fresh fruit from it today.
Loquats are a small orange fruit originally from southeast China, though Japan is the leading producer of these sweet and sour fruits, according to the California Rare Fruit Growers. They’re about the size of a , but their shape is reminiscent of a pear.
“Usually the people who know what a loquat is are Asian or people familiar with Asian cuisine,” Maciel said. “Or they’ve had them before from a neighbor’s yard.”
The texture of this small, snack-size fruit is a cross between a plum, an apple, and a peach. It’s extremely juicy and flavorful, with an almost aftertaste. Its skin is thin and edible, though some people prefer to peel them—but that’s a lot of work for not much of a difference in taste. To enjoy, simply rinse off and bite into them, watching for the cluster of pumpkin seed-sized pits.
Maciel sells her loquats—which are in no way related to the better-known “quat,” the kumquat—as ripe as possible.
“They start off green,” she said. “They’re ready when they’re completely orange.”
The taste of this deciduous fruit, as delicious as it is, is difficult to describe.
“They’re sort of peachy,” said market manager .
And indeed, they are the color of peaches and even have a sort of “fuzz” on their skins, like the popular stone fruit, but their taste is unique. Maciel describes them in a different way.
“It’s like an apricot-citrus taste,” Maciel said. “People always ask what kind of orange this is!”
Maciel also said that people aren’t convinced by one bite, saying that people usually get hooked after eating five or six of the fruits. But if you love the combination of sweet and tangy, loquats are for you.
“If I let people taste it, most of the time they like it,” Maciel said.
Try It Out
Why: Their unique and refreshing taste.
When: Now! Loquats are only in season during spring.
How: Maciel suggests slicing them into a spinach salad with walnuts or almonds. Dress with some EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and a drizzle of balsamic. Or take a couple to work for a midday snack.