Loquat

The loquat is a large evergreen shrub or tree, grown commercially for its orange fruit and for its leaves, which are used to make herbal tea. It is also cultivated as an ornamental plant. The loquat is in the family Rosaceae, and is native to the cooler hill regions of south-central China. The scientific name of loquat is Eriobotrya japonica.



Eriobotrya japonica was formerly thought to be closely related to the genus Mespilus, and is still sometimes mistakenly known as the Japanese medlar. It is also known as Japanese plum and Chinese plum, as well as pipa in China, naspli in Malta, níspero in Spain, nêspera in Portugal, and nespolo in Italy (where the name is shared with Mespilus germanica).


Table of Contents


Height(Avg)

15 - 30 feet


Width-Circumference (Avg)

15 - 25 feet


Approximate pH

5.5 - 6.5


Varieties of Loquat


It is divided into two types. They are:

  • Orange Fleshed

  • White Fleshed

Orange Fleshed

  • Early Red - Medium-large, pear-shaped fruits that form in small clusters. They are ore orange-fleshed with an orange-red skin with white dots. This type ripens in winter.

  • Big Jim - Round to oblong fruit that is 1 ½ inch in diameter. It has pale orange-yellow skin that is easy to peel. Its orange-yellow flesh has a very good slightly tart flavor. It ripens in mid-spring.

  • Mrs. Cooksey - A large fruit of about 1 ½ inch in diameter with a yellow flesh and excellent flavor.

  • Gold Nugget - A large, rounded oblong fruit with yellow-orange thin skin. This type’s orange flesh is juicy, firm, and sweet and its flavor is similar to an apricot.

  • Mogi - A small, elliptical fruit; light-yellow skin; sweet flesh; ripen in early spring. The tree is sensitive to cold and self-fertile.

  • Strawberry - Strawberry-like flavor; medium-size fruit with yellow flesh.

  • Tanaka - 2 to 3-ounce large fruit; orange-yellow skin; rich orange flesh; sweet, excellent flavor; ripens in late spring; fruit keeps well on the tree.

  • Wolfe - Oval fruit; yellow, thick skin; firm, juicy flesh, excellent flavor. It blooms during fall and early winter; ripens winter and early spring. It is excellent for cooking. Tree to grow 25 feet tall.

White Fleshed

  • Champagne - Medium to large oval fruit with deep yellow skin and white flesh. It melts with sweetness and is very juicy and has a good flavor. This type ripens late spring.

  • Advance - A medium to large pear-shaped fruit with deep yellow thick skin and white flesh. It ripens later in winter to early spring. Its tree is a dwarf of about 5 feet tall and resistant to fire blight.

  • Herd’s Mammoth - Large fruit with yellow-orange skin and white-cream-colored flesh. It ripens earlier than other types.

  • Vista White - A small to medium-sized fruit with yellow skin and white flesh. It is very sweet and superb for dessert.

  • Benlehr - Medium-size oval to oblong fruit, 1½ inch long; thin skin, easy to peel; white flesh; juicy sweet flavor.

  • Victory - Large oval fruit with yellow-orange skin and white-cream-colored flesh, juicy and sweet. It is ripens midseason.


Planting Loquats


  • Plant container-grown or balled and burlapped trees in spring or early summer before hot, dry weather comes. In mild-winter regions, loquat trees can be planted in fall.

  • Prepare a planting site in full sun that is sheltered from a prevailing breeze or wind.

  • Work well-rotted compost or manure into the soil.

  • Dig a hole half again as deep and twice as wide as the tree’s roots. Add a cupful of bonemeal to the bottom of the hole before setting the plant in place.

  • Put a tree stake in place before planting. Drive the stake into the ground to the side of the hole to at least 2 feet deep.

  • Set the plant in the hole so that the soil mark from the nursery pot on the stem is at the surface level or an inch or two deeper than the surrounding soil. Remove all twine and burlap from balled and burlapped trees. Spread the roots out in all directions.

  • Re-fill the hole with half native soil and half aged compost or commercial organic planting mix; firm in the soil so that there are no air pockets among the roots. Water in the soil and create a modest soil basin around the trunk to hold water at watering time.

  • Secure the tree to the stake with tree ties.

  • After planting, water each tree thoroughly and fertilize with a high-phosphorus liquid starter fertilizer.


Container Growing Loquats

  • Loquats can be grown in containers. Choose a large container at least 24 inches wide and deep.

  • Plant dwarf cultivars and repot annually to prevent plants from becoming root-bound.

  • Loquat makes a good patio area tree, but avoid planting them where fruit can drop on patios or sidewalks.


Fruiting Cycle


Towards the end of the summer, the loquat tree will start to produce flowers. The flowers form on the tips of the branches that are younger than 6-months, producing the flowers in clusters or pannicles.


The flowers give off a sweet fragrance, and you’ll notice the scent spread around your yard in the late summer afternoons when the wind is low. A single pannicle can bear as many as 100-flowers, but that’s no indication of the fruit the tree will produce at the end of the season.


You can expect an average of 60-flowers on each pannicle, and between 10 to 12-fruits. If you find that your loquat tree starts to produce lots of smaller fruits, remove half of the crop to allow the other fruits to get larger.


As the individual flowers start to form into fruit, it’s vital that you keep the tree warm. If you get a cold snap at the beginning or end of the fall season, it will cause the fruit to drop from your tree.


Therefore, when the fall arrives, it’s best to cover the tree with a burlap net to keep it warm. You can also cover the ground around the base of the tree with burlap or mulch to keep the roots warm as well.


Avoid planting the tree if you live in a region of the United States where temperatures fall below 30F.


Let the fruit ripen on the tree, as it develops its flavor profile and sweetness during the last few days of ripening. When it’s ripe, the fruit softens, and you’ll find that the entire tree ripens at once rather than in stages.


After you harvest your tree, the loquat takes the winter and early spring to recover from the stress of the growing season. After the winter subsides, the tree begins to form new shoots from the spring into the summer. Flowering and fruiting may differ from year to year, depending on environmental conditions.


Care for Loquat


Sunlight


The tree might also do well in a partially shady planting site, but it might affect the fruiting phase. Most of California provides the ideal growing environment for loquats, and they also do well in the southeastern and southern states as well.


Humidity and Temperature


Loquat trees are sensitive to dramatic changes in temperature. Therefore, they don’t suit environments across the United States that receive harsh winter temperatures. However, if you only want to grow the loquat for ornamental purposes, then the temperature difference doesn’t make a difference in the health of the plant.


The plant itself can stand drops in temperature as low as 10F. However, the tree won’t bear any flowers or fruit if the outside air temperature drops below 30F. The loquat also doesn’t enjoy hot climates and temperatures over 95F result in problems with flowering and fruiting.


Watering


During the first year after planting your loquat, you’ll need to water it heavily to ensure the roots grow as fast as possible. However, you’ll also need to ensure that your soil drains well. Loquats don’t like getting “wet feet,” and if the roots are continuously soggy, you can expect the onset of root rot.


Water the plant 3 to 4-times a week in the first year, especially during the summer months when temperatures peak. After the first year, you can cut back on your watering by half.


Soil


The loquat tree prefers growing in soil that has a loamy texture and drains well. The tree is not sensitive to differences in pH levels and grows well in acidic or alkaline soil. If you’re growing the loquat near the coastline, then make sure your soil has no salination.


When planting your loquat, loosen the soil in a three to four-foot circle around the planting site. Make sure you dig to a depth of at least 18-inches to accommodate the rapid root growth in the first year. At a few handfuls of organic compost to the soil, and mix it in well.


Fertilizer


The loquat doesn’t need much feeding throughout the growing season. Using a handful of granular fertilizer at the start of spring is all the plant needs to get the nutrients it needs to flower and bear fruit.


Propagation


Loquat trees can be propagated by seed or by grafting. However, ones grown from seed take much longer to become established and are not as reliable at producing fruit as grafted trees from established rootstock.


If planting from seed, the seeds need to be fresh.


Remove the seeds from the fruit and rinse them well to remove any residue from the inside of the fruit, and plant shortly thereafter. Do not allow them to dry out before planting, and if you must, keep them wrapped in moist paper towels until you can plant.


Grafted loquats are available from a number of nurseries, and I highly recommend going that route as you are guaranteed to have a much more viable fruit tree.


Transplanting


Transplanting loquats is fairly easy. Begin by preparing the soil where you wish the tree to be planted, working it to loosen the soil in at least a 4-foot circle around the area where you plan on planting.


Once the soil is loosened and a hole has been dug for the tree, remove it from its container. Rinse off some of the potting medium to expose its roots, although you don’t have to remove it all.


Place it in the hole at the same height it was originally planted, being careful to go no deeper. Make certain some of the new soil comes into contact with the roots, and fill the hole around it. Water it in well, and mulch to help prevent weeds from growing at its base.


A loquat tree planted in a container should be repotted annually to replenish its soil, to move it to a larger container if needed, and to carefully trim the tap root if trying to keep the tree in a dwarfing or small habit.


Be careful not to remove too much of the tap root so as to not greatly injure the tree, but light trimming will encourage your tree to remain small enough for its container and prevent the tree from becoming rootbound.


Pruning


If you grow your loquat tree in the ground, then you’ll need to trim during the summer and prune after the fall. Pruning helps the tree sprout more pannicles the following spring and avoid dead pannicles taking up the plant’s energy. Pruning also helps light get through the canopy to the lower branches, ensuring you maximize the fruiting period.


Harvesting and Storing Loquats


Harvesting


Ripe loquats tend to be slightly larger than unripe ones, and will give slightly when gently pressed. Their skin will be a bit darker than unripe ones, which gives you an indication of when to start checking. If left too long on the tree, they will fall off on their own but will be overripe.


It’s easiest to harvest by trimming off the branch tip which the fruit is attached, taking down entire clumps of fruit all at once. Try to pick clumps where most of the fruit appears to be ripe to avoid waste.


Slightly under-ripe fruit is still edible, but may be a bit less sweet and juicy. Overripe fruit is soft and mushy, and tends to be excessively sweet.


Storing


While loquats are delicious and well worth growing, they all seem to come ripe at once. And while they’re wonderful for fresh eating, they only last for a few days once they’re ready. There is a definite “eat me now” period for fresh-eating purposes, after which they’re no longer suitable.


Happily, whole fruit can be popped onto a cookie sheet in the freezer and frozen until solid, and then stored in a freezer bag until ready for use. When thawed, it will be soft and a bit mushy, but makes for an excellent syrup or jam material.


You can also preserve your loquats by making jams, jellies, and syrups. As it’s low-acid, you may need to add additional acid for proper canning purposes.


The fruit reputedly also tastes good when pickled, and it’s also suitable to make wines and liqueurs. It can be used in secondary fermentation for beer as a flavoring.


Pests and Diseases


Pests


The two insects that cause the majority of problems with loquat trees are black scale and fruit flies. Aphids can also be an issue during the growing season, but they’re not as significant a problem as the black scale. You can use neem oil to keep both of these pests away from your tree.


Fruit fly larvae can cause severe problems with your tree if you don’t identify and remove them in time. The maggots bore into the fruit, causing it to rot and fall from your tree. If you do get a fruit fly infestation, make sure you clean up any fallen fruit each day to reduce the larva’s ability to emerge as flies from the fruit.


Another pest to watch out for is the codling moth. This caterpillar might also try to infest your tree. The only way to keep it away from the fruit is to use an insecticide or an exclusion bag. An exclusion bag wraps around the fruit, preventing fruit flies and caterpillars from accessing the bounty.


Spraying bacillus thurigiensis onto the plants will also keep pests at bay as well.

Birds and deer can also prevent problems for your loquat, as both of them enjoy feasting on the fruit.


Diseases


The loquat tree is at risk of developing diseases such as fire blight and pear blight. In regions where there is plenty of rain in the early summer and high humidity levels, you might have to watch out for the onset of fire blight.


Bees transfer the blight to the trees, killing the leaves while turning young shoots brown. Pear blight is similar, but it only occurs in California.


Benefits of Loquat


Loquat fruits, seeds, and leaves have a wide variety of health benefits like:


Disease Prevention


Loquats are very high in antioxidants, chemicals that help protect your cells against damage and disease.


Loquats are particularly high in carotenoid antioxidants, which boost the immune system. A strong immune system is important for fighting off sickness.

Cancer Prevention

Early research shows that loquat fruit and leaves may help prevent cancer. Antioxidants in loquat fruit help suppress cancerous tumor growth. Loquat extract or fruit can help kill cancer cells in your body, which stops the creation and spreading of tumors. Loquat fruit is especially high in vitamin A and beta carotene, an antioxidant. These nutrients lower the risk of colorectal, lung, and other cancers.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

The loquat leaf, seed, and fruit have been shown to reduce inflammation, the body’s over-reactive response to an irritant like germs or allergens. Chinese medicine has been using loquat leaves for centuries to treat diseases caused by inflammation such as bronchitis and asthma. Several substances found in loquats, such as triterpene acids, reduce inflammation in the body.

Diabetes Prevention and Treatment

Diabetes is a disease caused when a person’s body does not produce enough insulin, or their body is resistant to insulin. This can lead to very high blood sugar (in the case of type 1 diabetes) or very low blood sugar (in the case of type-2 diabetes).

Many studies show that loquat leaf extract can help prevent and control both type 1and type 2 diabetes. This happens because loquats can lower blood sugar and increase insulin levels.


Promotes Bone Health


Loquat can help with maintaining good bone health, as it demonstrates the ability to help prevent bone density loss in varying parts of one’s body. It is the great mix of vitamins, nutrients, and crucial components.


Great for Eyesight


The loquat fruit contains Vitamin A. This may help you maintain your eyes’ good health. Vitamin A is like a protective barrier against cataracts and glaucoma.


Lowers Blood Pressure


The loquat fruit contains lots of potassium, which helps dilate blood vessels in the cardiovascular system. Potassium also works to lower your blood pressure and helps keep your heart protected. After all, the health risks of high blood pressure are very real: stroke, having a heart attack, the loss of vision, and heart failure are a few of them.


Uses

  • The loquat leaf and flower are also sometimes used in teas.

  • Leaves of Loquat are used in various countries to treat skin diseases and diabetes.

  • The fruit is also commonly used to make in syrup, jelly, jams and spirits.

  • It is eaten as a fresh fruit and mixes well with other fruits in fresh fruit salads or fruit cups.

  • The loquat can also be used in juices or smoothies.

  • Loquats are used commonly as a natural sweetener for many different types of food, and are used to make marmalade and jelly in various locales.

  • The loquat's wood is used as an alternative to pear wood and works well to make rulers/other writing instruments.

  • The loquat's flowers are used to make perfume in places like Europe.

  • Loquats can also be used to make light wine.

  • Some other uses for loquat include making alcohol, animal feed, and medicine to counter vomiting and thirst.

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