Loquat Watch: Loquat Orchard in Malibu Is a Rare Source
As regular readers of LGF will know, loquats are one of my favorite topics, being not only among my favorite foods but also since the fruit is one of the few fresh delicacies so readily available within reach just by walking down a street in Southern California, during the months of March, April, and May when other tree fruit are scarce.
The LA Times runs a story on the only commercial loquat farm in Southern California:
High on a steep, terraced mountainside in Malibu, with a spectacular view of the Pacific, perches the largest and probably the only commercial planting of loquats in the United States. A pome fruit related to apples and pears, the loquat is one of the great pleasures of spring in Southern California. It has firm but juicy flesh with the texture of cantaloupe and a sweet-tart flavor evoking cherry [ed. - hmm, never had one taste like a cherry.] The irony is that it is so well-adapted and common as a backyard tree that there’s little local demand for the fruit.
“They grow almost like weeds here [yeah!], so people won’t spend money on them,” says Dwight Landis, 64, who ships his fruit around the country but found it didn’t pay to sell through farmers markets. As a result, despite its uniqueness and proximity, his farm has stayed below the radar of local foodies.
Landis thought the trees he bought from a nursery were a classic variety, Gold Nugget, which is supposed to be large, with thick orange flesh, but he ended up with small fruits and thin, yellowish pulp. He therefore grafted over the trees to his Thousand Oaks friend’s selection, which is round to slightly pear-shaped, medium-sized and orange, with a well-balanced flavor. The true name of his variety, if there is one, remains unknown.
The varietal confusion is not surprising for a fruit that has been almost entirely neglected by American farmers and scientists. In China, where loquats are native and grow wild in mountain forests, the fruit is cultivated on about 300,000 acres, and there are hundreds of varieties. […]
I’ll note that Purdue does have a site with information on loquat varieties but it was is from a source dated 1987. Not much work has been done on loquats (professionally) since then, I surmise. The fruit does have a following in Florida as well.
The LA Times story goes on to discuss some horticultural information. It also lists the few food markets in LA that carry loquats. Then the interviewed grower gets right to the point:
“Most Americans don’t want to mess with loquats,” says Landis.
And that is sad but understandable. The fruit is small for the size of the seeds, and the skins are too tough to eat (at least uncooked.) So it takes some work for a little bit of joy. I walk by many loquat trees loaded with fruit that are totally ignored by the property owners and passersby both - a great waste and in my opinion evidence of the largess we have here in the US.
This year loquat season started early in San Diego, but has lasted well. However, with the heat in mid-May the season will soon be over, so enjoy them while you can.