The first time my neighbors brought me a plate of, what I later discovered were loquat, my initial reaction was that they were well past their sell-by date.
Imagine my surprise when I learned they were supposed to look like that and, even better, the soft pulp was juicy and delicious.
The loquat is an indicator that spring has arrived and, although the loquat tree is not native to Turkey, it has ultimately become very Mediterranean, a true local and you will see them growing everywhere.
Japanese in origin (Eriobotrya japonica), the Turkish name for it is either “Yeni Dünya” (New World), or sometimes “Malta Eriği” (Maltese Plums). In the past it came from abroad and people thought it could be from Malta, or further afar, maybe from the New World.
Loquats are luscious and delicious. They are juicy, tangy and sweet, with the perfect combination of acidity and sweetness, making them suitable to match with both sweet and savory tastes.
Enjoy the loquat on its own, with sweeter cherries or tart greengages. Or you could eat it straight from the tree. But don’t wait too long as it will be at its prime for a only a few weeks.
The health benefits of the loquat
The loquat fruit has many health benefits including boosting the immune system, preventing indigestion, managing high blood pressure, preventing risk of cancer, supporting respiratory health, balancing cholesterol level, strengthening bones, promoting blood circulation, managing diabetes, maintaining eyesight and treating inflammation.
The loquat kebab
In Gaziantep, fruits are a large part of cooking and the coming of spring heralds the making of the loquat kebab. They are also fairly easy to make at home.
The loquats are halved and stuffed with a köfte style meat ball. This recipe for Turkish meatballs from Ozlem’s Turkish Table is perfect for what you will need. The meatball recipe makes enough to serve four to six people. You will need one loquat for every meatball for the kebabs.
Halve each loquat, remove the seeds, place on a skewer and stuff with a meatball in the centre of each.
Alternate with red pepper or vegetables of your choice.
Drizzle with olive oil and cook on an outdoor grill or bake in a hot oven for 20-25 minutes.
Serve with seasonal salad and fresh bread.
Alternatively, you can substitute the meatballs for chicken.
Sources: Hürriyet Daily News/My Travelling Joys/Natural Food Series