As a Georgia girl who grew up pulling greens from the ground and pluckin’ oranges and peaches right from the tree, I’m real familiar with what grows in the Southeast. So you can imagine my surprise when Jamie stopped by my house the other day and said, “Mama, my loquat trees didn’t produce any fruit and yours are just loaded!”
“Jamie,” I said, “where exactly are those trees you’re talkin’ about?”
He looked at me like I was crazy. Apparently I have about 50 loquat trees on my property—practically an orchard right here under my nose. And the thought that some delicious fruit could go to waste on my watch just about made me sick.
“Well, let’s go eat some loquats then!” I told him.
A Sweet Little Snack
Jamie took me outside and showed me what looked like thousands of little yellow-colored apricots weighing down the branches of my once overlooked trees. He popped those fruits in his mouth whole, straight off the tree. I was a little more cautious, at least at first. Loquats are firm and the skin is a bit “hairy,” so I took the time to peel mine. Inside the fruit are about three or four big, smooth seeds that you gotta watch out for, but Lord have mercy, once I got started eatin’, I couldn’t stop. I don’t know how many I ate, but I discovered that I just love me some loquats.
I felt a little silly not knowing that I was surrounded by this bounty—that is until I started sniffin’ around and learned that loquat trees are not actually native to our region. Cultivation spread from China to the rest of the world and eventually came to the States by way of Hawaii. Some folks say that the trees north of Jacksonville don’t bear fruit, but I beg to differ.
The only problem is that loquats come all at once. The birds, however, are in the know and were on those loquats like white on rice. My quick-thinking assistant, Brandon, came to the rescue, hanging some tin pie plates that supposedly will keep the birds away ‘cause they don’t much like things that are noisy and shiny.
Loquats for Later
The next issue at hand was what to do with all that fruit. We called the grandkids over and had ourselves quite a feast, and what we couldn’t eat, we collected in baskets so I could make loquat preserves much like I do with my mouth-waterin’ wild plums.
I thought for sure that I knew every fruit under the Southern sun, but clearly I was wrong—to the delight of my son who, like any child, just loves the chance to teach his mama something new.