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The loquat

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The loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a species of flowering plant in the family Rosaceae, native to central China. It is a large evergreen shrub or small tree, grown commercially for its yellow fruit, and also cultivated as an ornamental plant. The tree can grow to 5–10 metres tall, but is often smaller, about 3–4 metres. The leaves are alternate, simple, 10–25 cm long, dark green.
Loquats are unusual among fruit trees in that the flowers appear in the autumn or early winter, and the fruits are ripe in late winter or early spring. The flowers are 2 cm in diameter, white, with five petals and have a sweet, heady aroma that can be smelled from a distance.
Loquat fruits, growing in clusters, are oval, rounded or pear-shaped, 3–5 cm long, with a smooth or downy, yellow or orange, sometimes red-blushed skin. The fruits are the sweetest when soft and orange. The flavor is a mix of peach, citrus and mild mango.
The loquat is originally from southeastern China. It was introduced into Japan and became naturalised there in very early times, and has been cultivated there for over 1,000 years. It has also become naturalised in Afghanistan, Kenya, India, Iraq, the whole Mediterranean Basin, Pakistan and many other areas. Chinese immigrants are presumed to have carried the loquat to Hawaii.
The loquat is easy to grow in subtropical to mild temperate climates where it is often primarily grown as an ornamental plant, and secondarily for its delicious fruit. The boldly textured foliage adds a tropical look to gardens, contrasting well with many other plants.
Japan is the leading producer of loquats followed by Israel and then Brazil.
In the highland parts of Central America, the loquat has become naturalized, and is often found growing wild in areas that have been disturbed but abandoned, its seeds having been dispersed by birds. Below 1000 meters, the fruit remains inedible for its high acidity, but above it, the wild fruit is appreciated and much harvested for its sweet, fruity flavor. It is occasionally planted for living fenceposts, as the tree is long-lived, not much subject to disease, and the wood is hard and durable. Good quality logs are much sought-after by furniture makers in Central America, who prize its hardness and durability.
The loquat has a high sugar, acid, and pectin content. It is eaten as a fresh fruit and mixes well with other fruits in fresh fruit salads or fruit cups. The fruits are also commonly used to make jam, jelly, and chutney, and are often served poached in light syrup.
Loquats can also be used to make light wine. It is fermented into a fruit wine, sometimes using just the crystal sugar and white liquor. Lemon or lemon zest is often paired with the wine because the fruit has very low acidity.
In Italy the nespolino liquer is made from the seeds, reminiscent of nocino and amaretto, both prepared from nuts and apricot kernels. Both the loquat seeds and the apricot kernels contain cyanogenic glycosides, but the drinks are prepared from varieties that contain only small quantities, so there is no risk of cyanide poisonings. The loquat is low in saturated fat and sodium, and is high in vitamin A, dietary fiber, potassium, and manganese.
Like most related plants, the seeds (pips) and young leaves of the plant are slightly poisonous, containing small amounts of cyanogenic glycosides (including amygdalin) which release cyanide when digested, though the low concentration and bitter flavour normally prevents enough being eaten to cause harm.
Loquat syrup is used in Chinese medicine for soothing the throat and is a popular ingredient for cough drops. The leaves, combined with other ingredients and known as pipa gao (literally loquat paste), it acts as a demulcent and an expectorant, as well as to soothe the digestive and respiratory systems.
In Japan, Loquat leaves are dried to make a mild beverage known as Biwa Cha by brewing them using the traditional Japanese "Senjiru" method, believed to beautify skin and heal inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema and for healing chronic respiratory conditions such as in bronchitis.

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Read 14465 times Last modified on Tuesday, 07 April 2020 08:08
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