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(Eriobotrya japonica)

Other Names: Nispero, Nespola, Mispel, Wollmispel, Ameixa amarella, Amarela

Loquats are tasty fruits the size of plums that grow all over the Mediterranean. Loquats trees grow up to 20 feet tall and have large (8 to 12 inches) pointed glossy leaves even when the tree is quite small. The fruit is yellow/orange when ripe and is best eaten fresh after peeling the outer skin. Each fruit usually contains 1 to 3 large seeds about the size of a small grape.

The skin of the loquat is easily removed. Peeled and seeded fruits are eaten fresh. Loquats canned in syrup are exported from Taiwan. Some people prepare spiced loquats (with cloves, cinnamon, lemon and vinegar) in glass jars. The fruit is also made into jam and, when slightly underripe, has enough pectin to make jelly.

The fruit is said to act as a sedative and is eaten to halt vomiting and thirst.

The loquat is adapted to a subtropical to mild-temperate climate. Well-established trees can tolerate a drop in temperature to -11 C. The killing temperature for the flower bud is 7 C, for the mature flower, -3 C. At -4 C, the seed is killed, causing the fruit to fall.Loquats are grown on hillsides in Japan to have the benefit of good air flow. Extreme summer heat is detrimental to the crop, and dry, hot winds cause leaf scorch. Where the climate is too cool or excessively warm and moist, the tree is grown as an ornamental but will not bear fruit.

The tree grows well on a variety of soils of moderate fertility, from light sandy loam to heavy clay and even oolitic limestone, but needs good drainage.

Generally, seeds are used for propagation only when the tree is grown for ornamental purposes or for use as rootstock. Trees that are vegetatively propagated will begin to bear fruit in 5 years or less, as compared to 8 to 10 years in seedling trees. Old seedling trees can be converted by cutting back severely and inserting budwood of a preferred cultivar.

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