THEY come from the far east, are exotic and easy to ignore. You may not have eaten one since you were a kid when you idly picked the orangey ball off a neighbourhood tree, took a bite and chucked the rest away.
Like the quince, and the persimmon before it, the mostly overlooked loquat is due for a makeover. Why? Because they taste good, are easy to grow, ubiquitious almost, and you can get plenty of free fruit right now.
According to ABC television gardener Millie Ross, the loquat is "a small to medium evergreen tree that will grow almost anywhere". It has a naturally formal canopy on a single straight stem with attractive tessallated bark. They can self seed but are happy to be cut back hard, or grown in a pot.
There is also a single-seeded variety that offers lots more fruit flesh and a really good flavour, but is harder to find.
Here's what I did with the lovely big bag I was given last week: gave some away to loquat appreciaters, ate a handful fresh, and made a pie and crumble filling.
Loquat pie or crumble
6 cups of loquats, seeded, peeled and coarsley chopped
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
Stew the loquats in a covered pot with water and sugar until the liquid is reduced and the loquats are tender but not brown. Add all the remaining ingredients and allow to cool covered. Now fill a plain unsweetened pie crust, made in the usual way, with the cooked loquats. Keep some pastry for a lattice pie top and bake. Or make a crumble using your preferred mixture, , top the cool fruit and bake.
The warmed, prepared fruit poured over vanilla ice cream makes a delicious syrupy treat. I reckon loquats would also make a good spicy chutney to serve with curry.