Growing up, Nespole (also known as Loquats or Japanese Medlars) weren’t exactly the kind of fruit your local supermarket would stock. In fact, I have yet to see Nespole in a supermarket – you are more likely to find them at the farmer’s market or your local greengrocer. But they were the kind of fruit the owner of my parents’ favourite Arabic greengrocer would hand me and my siblings to keep us occupied while my parents did their weekly food shop.
As a kid I wasn’t particularly excited about Nespole. Sure, they were juicy, but juicy did not always equal sweet. Plus it was almost impossible to find blemish-free Nespole. And I did not find them particularly fun to eat either: there was that almost leathery outer skin which I struggled to peel off and then there were the papery membranes surrounding the stones, and the stones so slippery it was practically impossible to remove them without at least one of them slipping from your hands and landing on the floor.
Fast forward many years and none of that bothers me anymore. In fact, I now adore Nespole. They signal that Winter is truly over and Spring and Summer are on their way. They also tend to be at their best (late April and early May) when it’s still a bit early for other fruits like strawberries and raspberries or stone fruits like apricots, peaches, nectarines etc. And if social media is anything to go by, then 2018 seems to be the year that Nespole are slowly moving into the mainstream. While I am still a strong believer that most ripe fruit is best eaten as is (and in the case of juicy Nespole, ideally standing bent over your kitchen sink), I wanted to share some great ideas for what you can cook and bake with Nespole that I have seen around the web.
Just a few notes first:
- Cut Nespole will quickly start to discolour so place them in a bowl of water with some lemon juice to prevent discolouration while you are preparing all your fruit;
- Nespole do have a somewhat leathery skin – whether you want to remove the skin or not is up to you. It is similar in thickness to the skin on tomatoes but much easier to remove. So you may want to remove the skin for things like jams and chutneys . You can also remove the inner membrane if you want to;
- Loquats are high in sugar, acid and pectin which means they lend themselves well to making jams, jellies and chutneys;
- I like to treat Nespole like other stone fruits like apricots, peaches or plums: I like them poached in syrup, roasted with a little sugar or cut into eighths and piled up high for a galette;
- Nespole have an unusual flavour – quite sharp, a little tropical but also with a musky sweetness. I find they pair well with bitter almond flavours (think Amaretto but also Mahleb) and vanilla (so also Tonka bean).
Here are some more ideas:
Nespole Chutney which the lovely Milli Taylor shared on her instagram the other day (and if you don’t follow her already, you totally should for all the excellent cooking tips she shares on her feed!).
Loquat Galettes like the ones I made a few years ago (as pictured below).