Saturday, May 1, 2010

Not Even Kissing Cousins

As the Citrus Guy, I get the question about Loquats (Eriobotrya japonica) being related to Kumquats (Fortunella spp.). The answer is No, they are not even kissing cousins. This is an understandable question, would you want to have "QUAT" in your name?
They ARE both native to China, but the Loquat is indigenous to southeastern China and possibly southern Japan. It is said to have been cultivated in Japan for over 1,000 years.
The Loquat was first learned about in the Western World by a botanist named Engelbert Kaempfer in the year 1690. It was planted in Paris in 1784 and in England in 1787. It spread from there all over the world.
The Loquat can reach a height of 20 to 30 ft. The evergreen leaves, are 5 to 12 inches long and 3 to 4 inches wide. The flowers have a very sweet fragrance, they are white, with 5 petals. Matter of fact, the flowers smell so good that, in the 1950's, the flowers attracted the interest of the perfume industry in France and Spain and some experimental work was done in extraction of the essential oil from the flowers and leaves. The product was appealing but the yield was very small.
The fruits are born in clusters of 4 to 30. They can be oval, rounded or pear-shaped, 1 to 2 inches long. They kind of resemble an apricot in size and color. The flesh is pale yellow and is suppose to have a sweet tart cherry like or pear like flavor. There may be 1 to 10 seeds, but usually only 3-5.
Once the tree is established, it can tolerate down to 12 degrees. The flower bud can be killed at 19 degrees, the mature flower at 26 degrees. This is important to know because Loquats are one of the first fruits to ripen in the Spring. They bloom in the Fall, needing 90 days from full flower opening to reach maturity. Basically it takes all Winter to form the fruit.
The tree grows well on a variety of soils of moderate fertility, but needs good drainage.
You can grow Loquats from seed, they are usually not very good though. Cuttings and grafting are the best methods of propagation. Started this way, you should see fruit within 5 years.
There are some cultivars that can produce 100 pounds of fruit per tree at 5 years of age. When they get to be 15 to 20 years old, they can produce in excess of 300 pounds. Loquats generally will keep for 10 days at room temperature, and for about 60 days in cool storage. There are said to be 800 varieties of Loquats, of which only about 46 are considered important or usable.
There are a bunch of pests and diseases that can affect your tree. Scale insects, aphids, fruit flies, birds, and a few other insects damage the fruit. Pear blight is probably the most serious disease. Good sanitation will take care of many of the disease problems. Watching for the first sign of an infestation with a good spray program, (remember to always follow labels directions) will take care of the insects. Netting for the birds.
There are many uses for the Loquat fruit. Some people prepare spiced Loquats (with cloves, cinnamon, lemon and vinegar) in glass jars. They can be used to make Jams, Pie Filling or peeled, seeded and eaten fresh. The fruits are high in Vitamin A, Dietary Fiber, Vitamins B6, B17, C, and Potassium.
I am excited about the prospects of trying a Loquat fruit. My tree, for the first time, has actually fruited and will soon be ripe. This amazed me because of the really nasty Winter we had. Check out the fruit:



This was one of the clusters, there are probably a total of two dozen fruit on the entire tree. I will let you know how they taste!

Happy Growing!
Darren

2 comments:

  1. These are very popular around the San Francisco bay area.

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  2. Invasive aliens in South Africa. Why would anyone who has seen or eaten a loquat imagine it was citrus?

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