Hunt and gather: what the heck is a Loquat?!

Every year in spring time we are smothered in loquats, and the kereru (native wood pigeon) go beserk. I saw one handsome bird gorging himself on the fruit – then he was so full he teetered on his branch, fell off it, and made a crashing, inelegant escape through the foliage and down into the valley. It was very funny.

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There are plenty of these glossy, beautiful, long-leaved trees in our neighbourhood. Those birds must do a good job of ‘dispersing’ the seeds! The loquat originally stems from the rainforests of Southeast China, and it now seems to be very happily at home in Northland. The fruit is prolific. Clusters of 5-10 golf-ball sized orbs ripen up to a pretty golden glow, and once ripe they are very easy to pick, just about falling off in your hand. Their skin is slightly fuzzy but it is good to eat, and the fruit is juicy, slightly tangy, and sweet. It’s an excellent source of both Vitamin A and potassium. There’s usually about three large brown seeds inside which are inedible, but they’re easy to remove.

Being outdoorsy types, we love to ‘hunt and gather’. It’s so satisfying to eat something you have either found growing, captured, or have cultivated yourself. Loquats make great jam, jelly, and cordial. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard loquat mojitos are pretty good…

Being piggy types, we also love cake. So here’s a great recipe for you to try – and if you can’t get your hands on any loquats you can substitute sliced banana, or really any fruit you like.

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LOQUAT, LIME AND COCONUT CAKE

5 Tablespoons butter

half cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup sifted flour

half teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

quarter teaspoon vanilla essence

approx 15 loquats, rinsed, cut in half, seeds removed

2 Tablespoons lime juice (or lemon)

1 Tablespoon lime (or lemon) rind, freshly grated

quarter cup thread coconut

quarter cup brown sugar

  1. Cream butter and sugar (first two ingredients) until light and fluffy
  2. Add eggs and beat well
  3. Sift flour, salt and baking powder and add to mixture with vanilla essence
  4. Spoon batter into greased baking pan (20cm round is ideal)
  5. Arrange fruit slices on top
  6. Combine brown sugar, coconut, and peel in a bowl, then sprinkle it over fruit. Sprinkle the whole lot with lime juice.
  7. Bake for 30 mins at 180C (350F) or until cooked
  8. Remove from oven and cool. Serve with whipped cream. Preferably outdoors.

I often double the recipe and make little cupcakes as well. Yum.

 
 

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