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Much to Make With Loquats, a Little Respected Fruit

Picking loquats. Credit: Susan Lutz

It’s spring in Southern California, and our backyard fruit trees have run riot. Golden yellow loquats the size of my child’s fist hang heavily from two trees, and oranges left over from the winter crop spectacularly cover a 30-foot tree shading my daughter’s playhouse. Our yard looks like a postcard trumpeting the glories of Los Angeles suburbia, circa 1923.

But as with any paradise there’s a dark side. This year, the dark side comes from the loquats. I don’t know what to do with them.

There are so many loquats that our yard has become a hazard. Fully-ripe loquats drop from our trees every five minutes, and as my daughters play in the yard, they grind the soft yellow orbs messily into the lawn and walkway. Still more are up there, some as high as 40 feet, way beyond the reach of our ladder and picking tool. They’ve become a feast for the flocks of squawking, screaming wild parrots in our neighborhood.

These are another holdover from the 1920’s “California is Paradise” meme. Some of the  wild parrots are said to be runaways from the estate of Lucky Baldwin, and the creatures tear the loquats to bits, scattering the seeds and skins across our back yard to mix with the rotting ones.

We have two loquat trees that dominate our backyard, each with slightly different variety of fruit. When we first moved to this house, I had no idea what loquats were and wasn’t even sure they were edible. For several weeks we raked them into huge messy piles and shoved them into the recycling bin. But I couldn’t stand to see this bounty left to rot, so I started asking questions about this small, fleshy yellow fruit. I discovered that loquats are not only edible, they’re downright delicious. My youngest daughter became obsessed with loquats when she was just a year old and ate her weight in loquats that first season.

Don’t sweat the seeds

Over the past few years, I have turned our loquats into loquat cobbler, loquat butter and loquat leather, with varying degrees of success. The biggest problem with loquats is their incredible seed-to-flesh ratio. Each loquat contains one to six large seeds, which means that you get almost as much seed as you do edible flesh in each loquat.

When I first starting researching loquats, I’d read that the seeds were poisonous. Filled with arsenic, and possibly cyanide. The websites were not clear. But like any paranoid mother, I worried that my children might eat them and fall into a temporary coma, just like an unnamed child I’d read about online. Although we’d been eating loquats for several years without incident, I decided to put my fears to rest once and for all by checking with an expert.

I put in a call to professor Jules Janick, director of the Indiana Center for New Crops and Plant Products at Purdue University. He’s not only the co-editor of “The Encyclopedia of Fruits and Nuts,” he is also a kind and understanding voice of reason. Janick told me that loquat seeds are indeed toxic, but then so are the seeds of apples and pears. To put things into perspective, Janick said, “If you ate 3 pounds of them, then it might be a problem.” He also reminded me that the bitterness of the seeds would stop someone from eating them pretty quickly. I realized that my daughter was at far greater risk for choking on a loquat seed than being poisoned by its chemical components.

Backyard loquat adventure

With this in mind, on an April afternoon, I took my loquat-loving youngest daughter to the back yard to begin Loquat Harvest 2013. We planned to fill my daughter’s toy wagon with enough fruit to make loquat leather, but we were quickly distracted by the fun of the collection process. We examined huge spider webs woven between the tree’s broad leaves. We ducked our heads from a torrent of loquat hail that rained down on us as I used our fruit picker to reach an especially high cluster of fruit. But we stopped in our tracks when we discovered a tiny hummingbird’s nest attached to a small wavering branch of our loquat tree. All thoughts of loquat leather disappeared and we marveled at this tiny treasure.


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Loquats ripening on the tree in our back yard. Credit: Susan Lutz

Our loquat tree was not only a source of food for humans and birds alike, it was a home. Our loquat trees now feel like an integral part of our own home, one that we happily share with our feathered friends.

I’m still experimenting with new ways to use the backyard bounty, without creating more work than necessary. The simplest approach is to just eat the fruit straight from the tree, spitting out the seeds, of course. But that’s a LOT of loquats to eat.

Our future is sure to be full of new loquat-laced dishes including loquat jelly, loquat chutney and loquat-chicken tagine. Maybe even a batch of loquat ice cream. But even as my family members stuff themselves with loquats, I think that the bounty of Southern California may simply be too much to keep up with.

I may have to ignore much of the fruit of the loquat this year.

And the real beneficiaries, the screaming, squawking, fat and happy parrots.

Loquat-Apple Leather


8 cups seeded loquat halves (approximately 9 to 10 cups of whole, ripe fruit depending on size)

2 cups applesauce (store-bought is fine)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1. Wash loquats and remove any blemishes and remaining brown bits from stem and blossom ends. Be sure to use ripe loquats, which are softer, sweeter and less acidic than unripe loquats.

2. Cut loquats in half. Scoop out the seeds and white membrane inside the pulpy yellow flesh. Don’t bother to peel them.

3. Make two batches of loquat-apple purée by adding 4 cups of loquat halves, 1 cup of applesauce and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon into blender or food processor. Process until smooth. (The blender does a slightly better job on breaking down the peels than the food processor, but either will work.) Repeat with second half of ingredients.

4. Place a solid tray liner, usually called a fruit roll sheet or non-stick dehydrator sheet, on top of your dehydrator tray.

5. Spread a layer of loquat-apple purée, about ¼-inch thick, onto the solid tray liner. The fruit leather will have a more uniform thickness if you spread the puree slightly thicker around the edges. Be sure to follow instructions for your dehydrator. Some suggest brushing the tray with a thin layer of vegetable oil to the tray liner before adding fruit purée.

6. Place the tray (or multiple trays if you have them) into the dehydrator and dehydrate at 135 F for 4 to 8 hours, until the fruit leather is translucent and can be easily peeled from the tray without falling apart. It may still feel a bit sticky to the touch, especially in the middle.

7. Cut into strips and roll.  Keep in a closed container or bag until ready to eat.

Picking loquats. Credit: Susan Lutz

Zester Daily contributor Susan Lutz is a photographer, artist and television producer. A native of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, she lives near Washington, D.C., where she is writing a book about heirloom foods and the American tradition of Sunday dinner. She also blogs about the subject at Eat Sunday Dinner.

  • rowley 5·14·13

    This is our second year with loquats after moving into an old Craftsman house in San Diego. I’m glad you were able to find something worthwhile to do with them. While I was excited to see those little yellow globes initially, I’ve come to realize the only thing they’re good for is the chainsaw. We’ll be taking down the loquat trees this year and replacing them with a pair of avocado trees.

    Here’s my take on them: Damn, Another Bumper Crop of Loquats

  • susan lutz 5·14·13

    @Rowley- Part of me hates to hear that you’re taking down the loquat trees, but I get it. Boy, do I get it. I enjoyed reading your loquat post. And I must admit that I can think of a lot of delicious ways to cook with avocados…

  • rowley 5·14·13

    At the end of the day, that was why we made the call to replace them. With only so much space for fruiting trees available, it made sense to ditch the insipid loquats and replace them with high-yield better-tasting avocados. Meanwhile, I put our friends on notice: anyone who wants loquats should bring a bucket and go to town on those trees.

  • Jane 5·14·13

    I do love reading your Zester articles, and this one as well. I”ve always liked loquats, and since they are the very first stone fruits of the season I particularly apopreciate them. I realize that it takes a lot of time and effort to pick them all, but if you have too many you could give them away to deserving relatives or friends.

  • Susan Lutz 5·14·13

    @Rowley- It’s never occurred to me to adopt a “pick your own” attitude towards our loquats. This could be good.

  • Laurel Paley 5·14·13

    Yum, loquats.
    Um….. cinnamon?

    I find it difficult to put those two together in my mind (cinnamon with citrus). Can you think of a different seasoning or spice that would work?

  • susan lutz 5·15·13

    @Laurel- Loquats (Eriobotrya japonica) are not citrus. They are actually part of the rose family. I think you may be confusing loquats with kumquats. Loquats don’t really taste like any other fruit I can think of, but they have a texture that’s similar to an apricot.

  • Marcella Hazan 5·16·13

    “Insipid” loquats? Is it possible that some people don’t recognize and appreciate that most paradisiacal of gifts, a ripe fruit? Seeing shoppers put rock-hard peaches and plums and apricots into their baskets at the store would confirm that suspicion. What we would have given in northern Italy to have found ripened loquats at the market.We resorted to ripen them at home bedded in straw. Why do people agonize over what to do with ripe fruit? Why should anyone expect any experience more enjoyable than just eating them, peeled of course in most cases, figs, peaches, and pears, and loquats included.

  • michlhw 5·16·13

    loquats and cinnamon sound delicious! i can imagine that happening. share, share, share them with meeee!

  • Jimmy Hoxie 5·16·13

    I am so envious of the luxury of having such an abundance of fresh produce in just an arms reach of the house! When I first visited LA, I was shocked to see fennel growing wild and free as weeds and citrus dangling from every branch. In Memphis, we have some things that grow quite well, but not year round as you lucky Cali folks. And y’all talk about eating locally. Everything grows there year round. If we only ate locally here, we’d never have citrus, avocados, cherries, or apricots. I know exactly how it is to get lost in a moment while harvesting. Last year, my mother and I were picking plums and blackberries at a local orchard and before we knew it, our baskets were full, as were our arms, pockets, and trunks. Such an amazing thing to harvest your food. Count your abundance as a blessing and share the harvesting if you have more than you can use.

  • susan lutz 5·16·13

    @Marcella Hazan- I agree, Marcella – hurray for fresh fruit right off the tree! The problem around here is that loquats are amazingly abundant and it can be hard for a small family to keep up! I just got home from teaching a group of elementary school students how to make fruit leather. You would have been delighted to see the number of children who said they loved eating loquats fresh from their backyard trees. And now… they love fresh loquats AND loquat leather.

  • susan lutz 5·16·13

    @Jimmy Hoxie- You’re absolutely right about the abundance of fresh produce we have growing in our backyards here in Southern California. And it’s this abundance that prompted me to become a Master Food Preserver. I wanted to preserve the riches in my own backyard and help others do the same. Another option for sharing the abundance is to contact, an amazing organization of people who help harvest backyard produce and give it to local food pantries across Southern California.

  • Nancy Zaslavsky 5·17·13

    An L.A. neighbor dropped off a bag the other day (he’s inundated!). Inspired by your terrific story I’m peeling them, gingerly picking out the big seeds, and devouring the succulent fruit. Thanks!

  • harveys mom 5·17·13

    i love the loquats in my neighborhood and secretly pull them off the trees on my walk w/the dogs in the morning. yum, they are delicious. thanks for the recipe. i’ll be trying it soon!!

  • susan lutz 5·17·13

    @Harveys Mom- I’m so glad the recipe came in handy. Please let me know how it works out for you!

  • susan lutz 5·17·13

    @Nancy- You’re lucky to have a neighbor with loquats. Nice to know that others are sharing the wealth.

  • Fiona 5·19·13

    After four years living in China and waiting eagerly for pipa (loquat) season to arrive each year, I’m flying in the face of advice from the first responder and planning to plant my own pair of loquat trees back home here in Australia, their bold glossy dark geen leaves and heavenly fruits will be a handsome addition to our garden.

    On my last visit back to China I stayed on a tiny island whose primary crop is loquats – they pick the heads of loquat flowers and dry them as a remedy for cough (steeped in hot water like tea), and make loquat jam from the leftovers. Interesting!

  • susan Lutz 5·20·13

    @Fiona- It’s fascinating to hear about other uses for loquats– especially harvesting the flowers for medicinal purposes. I’ve made loquat butter, but I’ve never attempted loquat jam. That will be at the top of my list for next season.

  • scott 6·13·13

    Loquats are popularly grown from seed, and many of the trees we see around town (Ventura California) are indeed seedling trees. Often these will produce inferior fruit, and should be grafted over to a good cultivar such as; Golden Nugget, Champagne, or Big Jim, or many other fantastic varieties. These cultivars are not even close to insipid, I doubt you would ever meet anyone who didn’t appreciate high quality loquats
    Seedlings are wild fruits, more or less they are weeds. Cultivars are improved types, either by chance mutation, or careful, or natural hybridizing.
    I would suggest grafting to your wild roots, and growing a high quality cultivar. I think you would appreciate your decision.

  • susan Lutz 10·1·13

    Scott- This is fascinating information. Thanks so much for writing. Our backyard trees produced two very different fruits and we liked one far more than the other. Your comment is a good reminder that it’s important to consider loquat variety, just as I would any other fruit. And I’ll view roadside loquats with a bit more skepticism from now on.

  • Priscilla 4·20·14

    It saddens me to drive through neighborhoods in san Diego and all kind fruit tree’s heavily hanging with wonderful fruits going to waste. I wish I had the nerve to go up to the doors and ask if I could pick the fruit and say if I pick your fruit for free could I have some to keep? I also love loquat. Being as they are weird people living in this world today I’m scared to ask anyway.

  • Susan lutz 4·21·14

    Priscilla- It is hard to watch delicious ripe fruit going to waste. Loquats are a particular challenge because they’re hard to find in stores or even farmers markets since they spoil quickly and are best eaten straight off the tree. If you’d like to help pick fruit for a worthy cause, there are organizations like that help collect fruit from backyard trees and distribute it to those who need it. I believe they only operate in Los Angeles and Ventura County, but they may be able to help you connect with a similar organization in your area.

  • Dell deChant 3·25·15

    Hope to have you join us at the Florida Loquat Festival: April 4, in New Port Richey, Florida.
    Contact us for more details:

    We’ll have a Loquat Poetry program this year, jellies and jams, lots of fruit, and some beautiful trees.

    Ecology Florida advances the harmonious integration of healthy natural, cultural, and economic ecologies to regenerate a sustainable world.

  • susan lutz 3·30·15

    Dell- I had no idea that there was a Florida Loquat Festival. Thanks so much for the invite– it sounds amazing!

  • Dax 4·6·15

    We have two loquat trees on our property in the Hollywood Hills. My husband complains about them, but I’m going to make loquat sorbet, loquat sauce, loquat butter, and chutney. I’ll also put them in my green smoothies and, of course, cut them into treats for my kids. I refuse to get rid of fruit trees. The fruit is delicious and nutritious. We also have a large fig tree in the backyard, but last year’s figs were not at all tasty, so I need to figure out the type of fig it is and if there’s something I can do to improve the crop. We just moved her from San Francisco last year. In SF, we had pear, apple, and apricot trees. My husband wants an apple tree, but I’m unsure how they’d do here … we also want a lemon, an orange, and an avocado tree. So, any suggestions for where to plant these would be great. Thanks for the great ideas for loquats!

  • Albert 4·12·15

    As I am too lazy to seed each loquat, I am trying something different. I have about 10lbs. that I picked from the backyard. I washed them well, put them in a pot, whole, seeds and all with some sugar and spices and barley covered with spring water. I plan to cook them until soft, then see if I can pass them through a food mill. I’m hoping that it will leave the skin and seeds behind. Fingers crossed, I’ll get back here to let you know what happened. 🙂

  • Laura 9·4·15

    I thought our fruit tree was some variety of “wild plum” until looking for recipes this year and stumbled upon the pictures of the “loquat fruit”. It appears my initial discovery may have been wrong. We have lived in our home in Minnesota for 6yrs and have never had such a bountiful crop until this year. I finally trimmed back the tree in the spring before it budded and WOW, we have loquats. They typically bloom in late August or early September. That tree is CRAZY, it grows right through our surrounding gate. I think the loquats also like the ferns nearby and our sprinklers have really helped the harvest this year as well. The poor tree is so heavy from all the weight and I have found MANY of the ripe fruit below the tree on our rocks. We do not own a dehydrator, would it be ok to use the oven for this recipe? I think my children would LOVE this “fruit leather” for their lunches with school starting back up soon….thanks for the great post, what a nice find!

  • susan lutz 9·4·15

    Laura- how exciting to have a bountiful loquat crop. Lucky you! You can use an oven on a low setting, but you have to keep the oven door cracked throughout the process, which isn’t safe when you have young kids roaming through the kitchen, as mine do. Check out this link to the National Center for Home Food Preservation. It has a great section on dehydrating in the oven. Enjoy your loquats!

  • Laura 9·5·15

    I found a friend who is letting my borrow their dehydrator. I am picking it up in a little while. I currently have 32 cups of halved and seeded fruits in the freezer. I already gave away about 6 or more cups to friends/family and I made a loquat crisp using an additional 4 cups. That tree is still FULL of fruit that is ripening. What is this “picker” you mentioned? Some of my branches reach up as high as our deck so pulling the whole branch down is a bit difficult. Trimming the tree in the spring was the ticket to getting a bountiful fruit. It has gone CRAZY and we live in MN.

  • susan lutz 9·8·15

    Laura- The picker I mentioned is the one you see in the photo at the top of this article. It looks like a small cage with “fingers”, attached to a long stick. Google “fruit picker” and you’ll find plenty of options. I’m surprised that loquats grow in Minnesota. Do be sure that you know what fruit you have before eating it. Your local cooperative extension office should be able to help with any questions you have. Best of luck with your harvest.

  • jeanette 3·16·16

    can you can them like a peach ?

  • susan lutz 3·22·16

    Jeanette- I haven’t canned loquats myself, mostly because it doesn’t seem worth the trouble. I can’t recommend canning loquats because I’ve never seen a tested recipe for it. Looking at the National Center for Home Food Preservation, I’ve seen several recipes for freezing loquats in a sugar syrup. That seems like a better idea to me because I don’t think the thin, delicate flesh of the loquat would hold up well to the water bath canning process. Here’s a link that might help.

  • Amy 4·11·16

    I just had my first loquat last week. I wonder if they ripen faster (or should I say, rot faster) like strawberries if you wash them way before eating? My mother in law washed them and gave them to me 3 days after picking but by then they all had brown spots on them. The fresh one I had off the tree was divine though. If you’re not fond of having too many, would it help to just prune it way back from its inception? Keep it small? I’d turn it into a family business of selling loquat jam at a Farmer’s Market if I had a loquat tree. They are simply scrumpdillyicious!

  • claudia 4·26·16

    I find it strange when someone says that they are insipid! Maybe the California variety. As I eat loquats in Portugal as well as loquats from Turkey that I can find here in the Middle East and they are so sweet and delicious. In fact you buy them…..

  • Teri 4·26·16

    The loquats on a San Diego tree pruned last year came with abundance and ripened all at once. I got out the fruit dehydrator and dried much of the crop to make jam with later since they do not stay in good shape for long. Used a rule for Apricot jam with a bit of lemon juice in it. Fresh loquats were delicious as were the dried ones, and I have great expectations for the jam.

  • Ed Acuff 8·9·16

    We moved into a home last year in Tallahassee that has two loquat trees. I had no idea what they even were. The fruit ripened and I loved the taste. I probably ate a couple uf dozen every day through the season. Have discovered some ways to use them. The diced flesh makes an excellent pizza topping.Also they work well as an ingredient in omelettes.