When we moved further south seven years ago, my husband’s aunt and uncle came to visit from Florida. We are in the same temperate zone and she brought plants for us.
A couple didn’t make it, for one reason or another. And a couple did. We have some Asian (or African?) lilies in several places in the back yard, and when they bloom, they are spectacular. They’ve self propagated, and I’ve moved some around, so they are established.
A year or so later we brought back some plants from a friend’s old house in Miami. At the time they thought the new owner was going to scrape the lot –a prime spot on an island — so they told us to dig up anything we wanted. I brought back a lot of big old aloe, a banana tree, some gnarly little palms that look hardy — Miami is not in the same temperate zone as us — and everything made it except the banana. Since I have grown a banana tree in Charleston which eventually fruited, I can only think it was the location.
Anyway, back to our aunt and the landscape. We have 3 incredible live oak trees, a stunning 70 ft. magnolia, and a lot of sago palms that are fabulous and get more so every year. But on the front by the dining window and one of the bedroom windows were two trees we weren’t familiar with.
“You should cut those down, Johnny,” she said. “They’re messy trees.” They are. “And the crows like them.” They do.
But he didn’t cut them down. He cut down myrtles instead, which he hates with a passion I don’t understand.
This spring, a neighborhood friend, a plant aficionado, told us they were loquats and that we could eat the fruit. I’d heard of loquats, but always figured they were like kumquats, which I’ve never cared for. But they’re not. They’re not even in the citrus family. They are in the apple family and sometimes called Japanese plums.
Well, y’all probably did, but we didn’t.
One of the trees is just outside the dining room window and I could see when it started to fruit, so when they got ripe, I picked a few and we tasted them.
Not at all like kumquats!
Not particularly distinctive, but tasty enough to add to the smoothies. They are tart, but not sour, and the skin is thin and easily peeled, so even though they are small, they are easy to handle.
When I did a little research to find out how to pick and use, and nutritional content, they seemed worthwhile. After all, if you’ve got fruit in your yard, it’s silly not to eat it. But then yesterday, my husband said, “I wonder if they have any particular health benefits.”
Lo, and behold – they’re considered a superfood!
You can even make tea from loquat, though I need to do more research on what part of the tree you use, etc.
Suffice it to say, we’re glad we didn’t chop them down. As are the birds who nest in them every year, cardinals and now something else, whose nest is remarkable all by itself!
Also suffice it to say, I’ll be planting a few more for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is that it only took a few years for them to fruit. We’ll probably both be in heaven before the lemons and key limes appear – but that is one of the joys of gardening, isn’t it? You plant and nurture living things, which, if you nurture them well, will outlive you!
And if you live long enough, you find fruits you’ve never tasted growing in your own yard!
For more on loquats’ health benefits, here is a link.
If you want to grow them (Temperate Zones 9a and south)