At first glance, one would never imagine that the mild-mannered Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) might be a member of the same botanical family as its more famous and flamboyant cousins the rose, apple, and pear.
Yet, it is.
Despite being more obscure, the loquat is an attractive evergreen tree in its own right, with its foliage of long, dark green, serrated leaves. The tree’s upright, symmetrical form is indeed handsome, and its height can often reach some 25 to 30 feet.
Cultivation of loquats began more than 2,000 years ago in China for the clusters of small orange-colored fruits. The fuzzy, oval fruit is tart to sweet depending on the variety, and must ripen on the tree. Each fruit contains between one and five brown seeds that should not be ingested. Sweet varieties make a wonderful addition to fruit salads and ambrosias. The more tart varieties or slightly immature fruit are recommended for jams, jellies, and pies.
The loquat is cold hardy and drought tolerant. Here on our farm, we have a number of rain-fed loquat trees that thrive without irrigation. Obviously, if given adequate water the fruit quality will clearly be maximized, but the key point is that the “low-quat” is about as “low-maintenance” as you can get.