Loquat--do you know it? Also know as Eriobotrya japonica, it is an Asian evergreen tree from the rose family. The fruit is thick skinned and fuzzy with one to five large, slick seeds. Their flavor can be perky and acidic like a pineapple, or soft and musky like a melon, or somewhere in between. Their taste is the spring equivalent to the persimmon--warm and sweet and lingering. They are used especially in jellies and jams, pies and chutneys--any recipe that calls for a plethora of fruit high in pectin. But I like them fresh.
Here in California they grow in people's gardens as ornamentals, but I first encountered the loquat on a study tour in Palestine back in college. Our cook would include bags of them in our travel lunches along with canned green olives and pita bread sandwhiches. I was so hungry all the time from the stress of study and movement that I ate them, even though they were rather difficult compared to the peaches and apples I was used to back home.
I must have seen them before, but before the study tour I had apparently never looked twice. In fact, I had overlooked other old fashioned fruits--quince, pomegranate, persimmon, and mulberry--for years. I am embarrassingly resistant to trying new things, and besides, much of the fruit on trees I passed off as inedible or undesirable simply because there was so much of it I assumed was unused. If the people who owned the trees didn't like the fruit, why would I?
But then I was traveling, there were fuzzy fruits in my lunch, and I was hungry.
Fast-forward a few years and there they were in the farmers market. I had gotten quite attached to them that summer, and felt like I had found the exotic equivalent of Dragon Fruit in the middle of a Wisconsin winter.They have a charm to them, but they aren't so unique or new. The name loquat has Chinese roots (their only connection to the citrus fruit kumquat) and means little plum. The trees grow in warm, dry climates like the Mediterranean region, southeastern China, and--ta da--California. They flower in the fall and early winter as small, sweetly fragrant white blossoms that appear wooly before they open. The fruit is ready to eat late winter to early summer.As I mentioned last post, last week I found a bunch of loquats at the farmers' market in the little green baskets you might get strawberries. I was so thrilled to be able to eat them, and so sad I didn't have more that I searched around a little and found someone advertising for free loquats. So now I have a five gallon bucket full of gorgeous, cantaloupe-colored loquats. Oh. The. Possibilities.I have found recipes for loquat wine, liqueur, sauce, jam, jelly, pie, compote, and cobbler. I even found a recipe to utilize those huge, weird seeds in a seed liqueur. This time I took the California route and made salsa. I have been craving some fruit salsa and spring onions are in such abundance the recipe nearly wrote itself. Hope you like it.
I am having this salsa with grilled fish tonight, but it would lovely over fish tacos, grilled chicken, mixed with black beans and eaten as a salad, or just scooped out with corn chips and eaten like a good salsa is eaten--with a smile and a nice, cold beer.
4 spring onions, finely chopped
juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil
1/2 - whole Anaheim pepper
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped (or more!)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
up to a half a Poblano pepper, finely minced (optional, for extra heat)
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
4 cups unbruised, ripe loquats
juice of 1/2 lemon
Combine the first group of ingredients, and let macerate while you prepare the loquats.
Peel and seed the loquats, slipping each half into the lemon juice as you go to keep them from browning too badly. (Because they do brown so easily!) Stir both the lemon juiced loquats and the chilling out salsa periodically to help redistribute the citrus juices.
Strain and chop the prepared loquats roughly and irregularly to get small bits and larger chunks, then toss the chopped fruit and the strained liquid in with the other ingredients.
Stir the salsa well and taste. More salt? Add a large pinch at a time. More sweet? Add a drizzle of honey at a time. More oompf? Add a little more of that pepper. Store well-covered in the refrigerator. Serve with above mentioned meats, beans, chips, or whatever strikes your salsa fancy. But most important: enjoy!