Loquat 'Italy' (Eriobotrya japonica)
Just when winter closes into April, Loquats take the lead at rearing petals into early-spring harvests, beating other fruit trees to production. The Italian Loquat, or Nespole, brings taste buds out of hibernation through bright-orange bursts of tangy, sweet juiciness with hints of citrus.
Introduced to Italy from Southern China in the late 18th century, the Loquat adapted.
The downy, ovular fruits glistened like gold on the branch and beckoned to be eaten quickly, not only because they were delicious, but because their shelf lives were very fleeting.
The darker the orange, the sweeter the Loquat, the sweeter the loquat, the stronger its richly floral perfume. (So take a whiff of both their fruits and their blossoms and enjoy!)
In Italian villages, it wasn’t uncommon to find children climbing Loquat trees, buckets in hand, to share them with their loved ones. Popular superstition suggested they helped with luck, so they were a beloved, delicious gift!
Depending on ripeness, their flesh embodies the crispness of a cantaloupe or evolves to a melt-in-your-mouth soft bite of an apricot. The golden brown, glossy seeds can be set aside and made into a traditional Italian liqueur, Nespolino, a bitter drink similar to amaretto.