My Favorite Spring Fruits, Part 2

Thursday July 12, 2012

By Elizabeth Taviloglu, Guide for Turkish Food

Have you ever heard of a loquat? I didn't until I came to Turkey.

How about a Japanese plum, a 'New World' or a Malta plum? If these names don't ring a bell, just keep reading. They all describe this delicious and exotic berry-like fruit that's popular in Turkey from April through June.

In Turkey, loquats are usually eaten as snacks or desserts. In the southeastern region where kebabs abound, they are sometimes grilled on skewers together with meat.

The recipe is called 'New World kebab.' It's a great dish for barbecues and entertaining.

You can also adapt loquats to your own cooking style. Use them to make jams, chutneys and other sweet sauces and glazes.

About the Loquat

Is it a Pome or a Rosaceae? Actually loquats are both. As a fruit they are considered a Pome and they are a part of the Rosaceae family. That makes them cousins of the apple, pear and quince.

The loquat tree is not native to Turkey. Originally it comes from China, but today it's grown all over the world. It does especially well in warm and tropical climates. Over the years it has worked its way into the local cuisines of many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries.

Eating Loquats is Fun

Eating ripe loquat can be really fun, especially the first time. I like to peel away the thick, slightly fuzzy skin with my teeth, then nibble at the sweet yellow pulp surrounding the large brown seeds inside.

Another way is to bite a small hole in the skin and the squeeze the fruit gently until all the big seeds slip out. Then pop the whole thing in your mouth.

Either way, have plenty of napkins on hand. If you know a better way to eat loquats, please let me know. I'd love to hear from you.

What's in a Name?

In Spain the loquat is called 'nisperos,' and in Morocco 'mzah.' In Turkey the most common name is 'Yeni Dunya' (yen-EE' doon-YAH'), meaning 'New World.'

I always wondered why it's called 'New World.' I've asked everyone I know and even some people I don't.

My favorite answer came from an elderly Turkish woman. She said that when you bite into a perfectly ripe loquat, the taste is so wonderful that it opens up a whole new world of possibilities for you.

Do you think that's stretching logic too far? Before you decide get some loquats and try them. Then tell me how you feel.

Photo © Elizabeth Taviloglu, 2012

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