Every year around this time, loquat lovers unite around the pale yellow fruits that are growing — mostly unnoticed and unappreciated — on trees all over Central Texas.
Some homeowners loathe the loquats because they draw squirrels and birds who know just how sweet and succulent they are. Others are just annoyed because they drop off trees and cause something of a mess in their yards.
But if you’ve ever stopped to pick one and taste its apricot-colored, kiwi-textured flesh, you might change your tune. I’ve been on a loquat awareness crusade for years, so my apologies if you’ve heard this story before: I first discovered loquats while living in Spain, where they are called nisperos and sold by the kilo at local markets. I’d never seen anything like them before and ate as many of them as I could stomach.
Years later, when I moved to Austin, I nearly cried at the sight of them growing on a tree near my house. With one bite, I was transported back to my beloved Alicante, and it’s a ritual I repeat every spring.
My kids are now loquat fanatics, and we go on neighborhood walks to forage them. Plenty of Austin chefs are taking advantage of the nice little crop that has popped up this year, including Todd Duplechan of Lenoir, who is using loquat juice in a ceviche, and Jesse Griffiths at Dai Due, who is using them in sauces, drinks and pickles.
Sarah Prieto, the pastry chef at Counter 3 Five VII who uses Instagram as @sarahpea26, had never tried loquats before last week, but she loved their peach, citrus and mild mango flavor and used them to make a loquat liqueur and loquat vinegar. She also made a loquat white chocolate curd that she has been serving at her prix fixe restaurant downtown.
Another great source for loquat ideas and inspiration is the Austin blog Full and Content (fullandcontent.com), whose author, Lisa Rawlinson, is as passionate about loquats as anyone I know.
Loquat Dream Curd
1 whole egg
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup loquat puree (see note)
1/2 vanilla bean
4 oz. white chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Whisk together the egg, yolks and sugar until light in color. Whisk in loquat puree and vanilla bean. Cook over a double boiler until the mixture thickens. Stir in the chocolate until smooth. Stir in lemon juice. Remove the vanilla bean and refrigerate the curd to help it set.
Note: To make the puree, cut off the ends of the loquat and use a spoon to separate flesh from the skin. Remove the seeds and put flesh in water with lemon to prevent browning. Blend and strain.
— From Sarah Prieto, pastry chef of Counter 3 Five VII
Here are some other things that you guys have been cooking lately. Share your pics by adding #Austin360Cooks to your posts on social media.