This last winter was a particularly warm one, and though my apple tree and pear trees are barely scratching out fruit and staving off disease, the loquat tree went gang busters with fruit. The combination of weather, dispatched rats, cats keeping the rodents away, and a neighbor with a BB gun has produced a bumper crop that’s still on the tree. This from a fruit tree we barely knew anything about before we moved into our house.
Any good homesteader will tell you that when you are given a blessing of extra fruit, you don’t just sit there scratching yourself. You bust out the canning supplies and buy some jars. And that is exactly what my household did! Two batches over the last couple weeks, and another on the stove right now. Plus, the tree barely looks as if we picked anything, so there will probably be more. Tonight’s batch has some of the first plums of the season in it, too. I tried some “raw” fruit in combination off the trees and they seemed to compliment each other quite well. Whomever planted the trees decades ago, was a wise person.
So you might be wondering, if you haven’t been to a house with this sort of tree what the hell loquats, A.K.A Nisperos, are. The answer is that they are a distant relative of the apple, and are from Asia. They taste a little like an apricot and are about the same size. I’ve loved having visitors over in the Spring and having them try a loquat for the first time. The experience tells a lot about a person’s experiences and food spirit. Is the person knowledgeable about food and the fact that there are literally thousands of varieties and species of fruits around the world that never make it to the supermarket? Are they a little adventurous to try new things? Its fun, and most people find the experience of loquats agreeable, though not impressive.
Loquats are a very simple tasting fruit. They are almost generic in the sense that they are a little tart when under-ripe, really sweat when over-ripe, yet don’t have much complexity beyond that. Making jam out of them wasn’t all that hard to figure out either. We combined a few recipes from the web with our experience using plums and Voilà, loquat jam.
I mentioned the jam and brought a jar over to a friend’s party last week and got some, “Ooh, I love loquats,” and “Wow that sounds like a lot of work.” Nothing unusual, but it got me thinking about the idea of hand made foods and more generally anything that is made through craft. In this case, loquats are a fragile fruit that go bad within a day or two, making them unsuitable as a trade fruit. The only way to experience them is by having a tree, or knowing someone with a tree. Next, having enough of them and the patience and energy to make them into a jam, makes this product that much more rare. Additionally, it must be hand made, and so will always bring a different experience when making and consuming the jam. So on the one hand we have this rather benign, little-known fruit, but on the other we have a process that turns them into a jam that has unique hand craft all over it.
The point of crafting things by hand in an age of mass-design and manufacture is that you get unique experiences and outcomes. For me that is one of life’s ultimate pleasures, even if it is slow, tiring, and a “lot of work.”
Just had a try; plum, nispero, and wildflower honey jam is fantastic!