Grand Round:Loquat, Winter Melon & Sapote
A good friend who read my book The Cockroach Catcher said she wished I had written a lot more about the village. As a result of modernization, in one generation we have seen the passing of something that provided us with a uniquely enchanting experience that no modern developments with their charming “cool” shops can ever hope to match.
Are we being over-romantic to ignore the hardship many of us put up with during that period, not to mention the struggles of many of our parents to provide for us? Have we forgotten the leaking roof, the rudimentary toilet facilities and our constant battle with cockroaches and other pests, not to mention poisonous snakes and the like?
I have to say that on balance, it was still a sweet memory. Who can fail to remember the constant supply of fresh fruits and vegetables from our own land? The chickens we reared and their eggs poultry were just out of this world. I have conversed with a few friends and relatives about this, and they all seem to agree.
No so long ago, I mentioned the surprise and nostalgia brought on by a Pompano that I caught near our vacation home. Yesterday, I plugged up courage and picked a fruit from one of the trees nearby.
Yes, I know of poisonous fruits and often warn people not to pick unknown berries, especially not the bright coloured ones, as the bright colour is a sign that fruit may be poisonous. I remember a visit to Avoriaz in the French Alps one August many years ago. There were these tiny shrubs in the Alpine hillside bearing small berries. We were not sure what they were and were certainly not tempted to try them until we saw some local boys picking and eating them. They were wild blueberries. Blueberries were not popular or so widely available in those days. Nowadays, the commercial varieties are bigger in size but alas the taste is nowhere as good as the wild ones we tasted in the Alps.
I decided to give the said newly discovered fruit the “alkaloid test”. To do this, you simply rub the fruit on your teeth and then try to lick it to see if you can detect an astringent bitterness. This is the taste of plant alkaloids you get from an unripe Persimmon. The antidote is indeed, dare I mention it: Coca Cola. So with Coca Cola ready, I tested the yellow plum shaped fruit. I had a suspicion, and the tasting confirmed it: Loquat it was.
Loquat is in known as Pipa琵琶果in Chinese (more poetic, like the Chinese lute). Most botanical literature agrees that it is indigenous to southeastern China although Japan imported the seeds from China and has been cultivating the fruit for at least a thousand years. It was first planted in the National Gardens, Paris, in 1784; and plants were taken from Canton, China, to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, England, in 1787. Now they are grown in the Mediterranean region, and in other countries such as India and Brazil. They have been subject to much horticultural breeding and many varieties are now commercially available for gardens and orchards. The fruits from the Chinese variety are said to have the best keeping qualities. Loquat may not be in the super-antioxidant category of fruits like pomegranate and blueberries. It is in the apricot (Rosaceae) family, and its yellow colour indicates a good level of beta-carotene.
Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)
Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Loquat has been incorporated into one famous cough preparation. A good friend of ours swear by it. Whatever it might be useful for, I turned some of the fruit into Loquat jam, with the addition of some lime to give it some bite. This goes well with homemade pancakes and waffles, as well as cheese.
New Post: Loquat, Winter Melon & Sapote