San Antonio Express News
Sunday, May 8, 2005
By Dr. Jerry Parsons
Trees are loaded with beautiful yellow orange fruit. A mild winter has blessed us with an abundance of fruit in such quantities that every citizen can partake. If you do not have a tree in your yard, just ask any neighbor who does have a tree to share the bountiful crop with you. If your neighbor is the greedy type, remind him that he will soon experience the biggest mess in history when the wonderful fruit becomes a wondrous, rotting mess beneath the tree unless you assist birds and mammals such as opossums, raccoons, squirrels and deer in consuming the bounty.
This fruit is so abundant and so beautifying, local officials might be tempted to designate it as San Antonio’s tree mascot. This would not be an appropriate decision since this tree only produces fruit every decade. The fruitful tree which I am referring to is the loquat or sometimes known as Chinese plum. People are really excited because the dark green, thick leafed loquat tree in their backyard which has seldom had fruit on it is now loaded with colorful fruit. The loquat is an attractive evergreen tree that is adapted to many areas of Texas. Winter tree damage is a problem in the northern portions of Texas that experience winter temperatures below 10 degrees F. Fruit are set in the fall and mature in the spring. Winter temperatures below 25 degrees F. usually destroy the fruit, so consistent fruit production is limited to the extreme southern portions of the state. When you have a loquat crop, you can be assured that you had a mild winter. Most people are skeptical about eating the fruit figuring that such an unplanned fruit crop is too good to be true so it must be poisonous. Loquat fruit is perfectly wonderful to eat fresh. Wait until the fruit colors (from greenish to deep yellow or orange) and softens to a firm squeeze. Then peel the fruit or eat peeling and all for extra roughage. Don’t chew and swallow the large seeds.
The seed is highly toxic so cut off the fruit from the seed before eating fresh or cooking to extract juice. With that said, if anyone has ever roasted and eaten loquat seed, please telephone me (or have your nearest surviving relative telephone me) on Saturday from 12:00 pm to 2:00 p.m. and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KLUP Radio (930AM) at: 210 308 8867 or 1 866 308 8867 toll free. I would swear that years ago someone told me that the seed could be roasted!
I realize that producing an abundant fruit crop without doing any planning (variety selection) or applying pesticides to avoid wormy fruit is unbelievable. Just consider this year’s loquats as a “manna” crop to, in a small way, compensate for the horrendous insect populations of Biblical proportions which Texans will experience this summer. The insect survival and proliferation is a direct result of the mild winter as is the loquat bloom survival and fruit production.
If you have never made homemade loquat jam or jelly, you don’t know what you are missing! First you remove the skin or peel the loquats by blanching. Blanch by pouring boiling water over the loquats until they are covered (floating). Add one fourth cup of lemon juice to each quart of water; cook over low heat about 5 minutes, just until skins loosen. Drain. Cool, peel, and halve and seed the loquats.
Some surefire, safe ways to consume loquats are loquat jam, loquat jelly and loquat wine.
5 cups loquats
1 box fruit pectin
7 cups sugar
Wash fruit well. Cut off both ends and remove seeds. Place fruit in a saucepan (which is no more than one third full with fruit and juice added) with a small amount of water. Cook slowly and mash with a potato masher occasionally until well done. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
Add pectin such as Sure Jell or Certo to the fruit and stir well. Let the mixture come to a rolling boil stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add sugar and boil to a rolling boil for 1 minute.
Wash loquats and remove seeds. Place in saucepan and add enough water to barely cover fruit. Cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes, then strain through jelly bag or four layers of cheese cloth. (For greater yield of juice, twist the two ends of the bag in opposite direction until most of the juice is extracted. Then, strain through clean cheese cloth or jelly bag, but do not squeeze or press.) Use three cups juice to two cups sugar (this makes a tart jelly). Measure sugar and set aside. Measure juice and put into a saucepan (which is no more than one third full with juice added), stirring in fruit pectin such as Sure Jell or Certo. Bring this mixture to a full boil over high heat, stirring constantly. At once, stir in sugar. Stir and bring to a full rolling boil (a boil that cannot be stirred down) and boil hard 1 minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off foam with large metal spoon. Immediately ladle or pour boiling hot into jelly glasses or jars leaving one half inch space at top of grasses, one eighth inch space at top of jars. Seal with hot paraffin or with lids and screw bands. Let jelly stand to cool.
If you are concerned about too much sugar in jams and jelly and want to make some sugar free loquat delights, order some Pomona’s Pectin. Pomona’s Pectin jells without sugar; it will jell water. Instructions come with the product. Equal artificial sweetener can be added after cooking as a substitute for sugar. For more information about this product, see:
One gallon of Loquat wine
4 pounds of loquats
7 pints of water
2 1/4 pounds of sugar
½ teaspoon of pectic enzyme
1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
1/16 teaspoon of potassium meta bisulfite
1 package of champagne wine yeast
Strip the fruit off the stems and separate out any moldy or obviously bad fruit. Mash the loquats and strain through a nylon bag into the primary fermenting container. Add all the other ingredients except the yeast. Tie off the nylon bag with the crushed fruit and put it in also. After 24 hours add the yeast. Cover the primary container and stir the mixture daily. In 6 days, squeeze the nylon bag as dry as possible and siphon the juice to a secondary container (glass jug) and fit an air lock. Check the air lock weekly and in two months siphon again. Keep checking every 2 months and siphoning again until clear. Sometimes it takes 6 months or a year. Then bottle and enjoy!
This article was written by Dr. Jerry Parsons, Extension Horticulturist (Vegetables) with Texas Cooperative Extension in Bexar County.