Eriobotryia japonica – Loquat in English which comes directly from the Chinese word – or Nispero Japonica in Spanish, nispero being a Japanese word meaning “wooly bunch” as the underside of the leaves have a soft white coating. It is an attractive evergreen tree with large deep green and shiny leaves, musky scented flowers and at this time of the year a profusion of golden fruits. It is also the first stone fruit to ripen after the winter, and for all these reasons it is much planted in here in southern spain. It is a native of China despite acquiring the japonica in its name, and must have spread to Japan first before slowly making its way to Europe by the late 1700’s. It grows extremely well in the warmer parts of spain especially the Alicante and Almeria provinces.
There are two varieties in my garden, Algerie an early variety that has very sweet yellow fruit which are eaten fresh – these have already all been consumed before the later variety is ready. The fruit on the later variety, Tanaka, is bigger and a bright orange colour and more tart, so is better cooked. Also all the fruit is ready at once and does not keep longer than a day or two so preserving most of it of it is essential. It can be made into a jam, although I think the delicate flavour of the fruit gets lost in the amount of sugar need to preserve it. Also, and this is going to sound contradictory, it makes a good indian style chutney with garlic, chilli, vinegar, spices and sugar. When you have a glut of fruit it is worth sacrificing the delicate flavour to use the tartness and colour in a chutney.
As you can surmise from the photo birds are rather partial to Nisperos as well as us, so the trees have to be netted before the fruits start to turn yellow,although I have had less of a problem with birds this year as there are currently two cats and two kittens in the household.The kittens however can pose a problem themselves…….
Most of my Nisperos get the following treatment to keep them. They are cooked, peeled and stoned and then frozen in portions with their juice. They can then be defrosted as needed to use in desserts and sauces or just eaten as they are. They are full of vitamins but little sugar so one can feel free to eat a lot of them. One of my favourite recipes in the summer is Nispero Gazpacho which follows, but firstly how to deal with the fruit.
When you pick the fruit, cut the stems rather than break off the fruit as any wound to the fruit will discolour quite quickly. Wash the fruit.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil and then gently put in the Nispero a few at a time. If you have a lot of Nipero cook them in batches so that they come back to the boil fairly rapidly. Bring back to the boil and simmer for five minutes to cook them through to their cores. If they are very large cook an extra minute to be on the safe side.
Take the fruit out of the water and put into plenty of cold water to cool them down rapidly and stop them continuing to cook.
When cool enough, peel them, cut in halves and remove the stems, stones and the inner membrane. They are then ready to use or freeze.
half a clove of garlic
pinch of sea salt
10 nisperos prepared as above
1 tablespoon olive oil – good fruity extra virgen
Put the garlic and salt in a blender or food processor and blitz until chopped.
Add the nispero and olive oil and blend until you have a smooth creamy soup. Check seasonings and add more salt or oil if you think it is needed.
This soup is so refreshing on a hot summers day and can be made with other fruits. Cherries when in season work very well, there is no need to blanch them just cut them fresh into the blender. The same with water melon which when blended with olive oil turns a lovely coral colour.
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