June 29th, 2006 12:03 PM
This is a loquat (see fig 1).
I first encountered this unusual bit of produce while working at the farmers' market at the Ferry Plaza. My employer (the Sciabica family) specializes in olive oil, but they also grow small amounts of other crops on their 15 acres in Modesto.
Intrigued to find a species of fruit I had never seen or heard about before, I tried one. The outer flesh is edible, though tasteless and a little tough. The inner flesh is firm and juicy, with a unique texture (not like peaches or plums or cherries at all - maybe like a really super juicy apple), and a taste that's somewhere between an orange and an apricot. There's also 2-3 large seeds inside each one.
Throughout the day, many customers either asked what the hell they were, or told us about how they used to have a tree full of them as a child. And since we were selling them cheaply ($2/basket, 3 for $5), we
Still, at the end of the day we had lots of leftovers, so I brought home a massive sack of loquats. Now I'm trying to figure out how to make some buttery pastries with them. I'm thinking they'd make a good galette.
Anyway, I did a little research on these buggers (coughwikipediacough):
-Latin names: Eriobotrya japonica, syn. Mespilus japonica, Photinia japonica
-Other common names: Japanese pear
-subfamily Maloideae of the family Rosaceae
-indigenous to SE China
-also grows in Mediterrenean or warmer climates; naturalized in: California, Hawaii. Japan (the leading producer of loquats), Israel, Brazil, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Greece, Armenia, Southern Italy, Portugal, Spain (particularly around the town of Callosa d'en Sarrià), the south of France, and northern Africa.
Also, I noticed that, like apples, loquats have lots of pectin: what that means, of course, is jam. Time to get cooking.
(Will update w/ info card next time I work at the stand.)