All over south Texas, landowners and homeowners plant this ornamental tree called a loquat. It is in the rose family, not the citrus family. It is tremendously delicious, and fruit after mild winters triannually. It also fruits very, very early, before even the mulberry comes in. This is why mild winters are key: The blooms come from january to march.
Also, they don't last long after picking. One really only sees it in ethnic markets in cans. It is not a familiar fruit to Americans, and most years a tremendous waste occurs all over the south. The fruit falls rotten to the ground. Nobody eats it. Nobody puts this abundance of glorious, apricot-tinged and aromatic sweet nuggets of deliciousness to use.
We encountered a tree off by itself in the grass beside a local farmer's market, of all places, laden with huge, delicious loquats. I was flabbergasted that at a venue celebrating local food, no one thought to pick the loquats!
Quickly, my wife and I harvested a good produce bag's worth and showed some to a few of the vendors who were asking us what we were doing.
At home, we see aside a couple of the best for immediate fresh eating, while I turned the rest into refrigerator pickles.
Upon picking, they last about a day. This is why we don't see them in grocery stores, I reckon. They need to be processed fast. Also, as this is urban foraging, they need to be triple washed and really inspected for signs of trouble. The Loquat tree is used because it is such a trouble-free plant, that requires minimal fertilization and no spraying. However, that doesn't mean nothing happened in the grass around it. Always exercise common sense and caution while urban foraging. Avoid sites that look like heavy spraying or lots of exhaust from the nearby roads might pollute the fruit. This was a fairly well-tense spot but it was simply grass and nothing else. Also it had been raining for days. I assumed the worst I soul encounter would be chemical grass fertilizers that had not been completely washed out by the rain.
At home, we washed them first in a baking soda and vinegar and water solution. Then, I chopped off the blossom end, and sliced them in half to remove the pits. Rinsed through two more times until the water they soak in is clean, stuff them onto clean Mason jars with whatever spices and herbs you desire. Everybody uses rosemary. Rosemary in loquat pickles is glorious. Bay leaves are popular, too, but ours is too small to harvest. Instead we did thyme in one, and black pepper and cardamom in the other.
A simple pickle brine solution with salt, vinegar and water is sufficient, but I do like mine sweet, so I also add a bit of sugar to the already sweet loquats.
This stuff is tree candy, and it is astonishing to watch it go to waste year after year. This is truly one of the finest fruits in the world, right up there with peaches and cherries and apples, and it is so abundant at a time when so little else is available fresh. I am flabbergasted every year by the astonishing waste of loquats. Food is free. Particularly loquats. Go harvest some today, south Texans!