06 Jun2010

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They looked a bit like apricots on steroids, but with more of a nectarine like skin… I had never come across one before, “nespoli” the sign in Italian declared. The vendor described it as a bit of apricot, a bit of peach, delicious. We bought some to try. They were incredibly juicy, but the flavor less intense than I had anticipated. It was pleasant, but it wasn’t an earth shattering experience, by any means. Little did I know then that I was probably supposed to wait several more days until it started to rot and putrefy before it was at the height of its flavor and pungency… Nespoli (mespilus germanica) is a distant relative of an apple, native to Persia and frown by the Romans since the second century BC (according to Alan Davidson in his book, The Oxford Companion to Food). So that seemed simple enough, except that many other sites suggest this is in fact a loquat, or Japanese medlar, native to China somewhere…

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I would like to think it must be a nespoli, because I purchased it in Italy, but I am not certain at all whether a nespoli refers to a medlar or a loquat. And it certainly didn’t fit the description of a medlar which is hard and dark green and allowed to rot before it is pungent and enjoyed. It was also early in the summer, so the timing would jive with a loquat ripening season. So maybe there is a reason for the confusion, and this was indeed a loquat (eriobotrya japonica) instead. It was orange and apricot like in color and flesh, it had a single seed, not the five indicated for a medlar, and while it originated in China, it is NOW cultivated on a small scale in the Mediterranean area. If you know more than the little I have written here, please leave a comment. Thanks.

Update: Here is a close-up of unidentified fruit from a trip to Florence 4 years ago, that Footloose refers to. This one had the five-petaled “flower” at the other end of the fruit from the stem, making it botanically distinct from the fruit above, but I guess are both called nespoli in Italy, and they are in season around May/June.

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COMMENTS:

  1. Betchay says:

    Your blog is really very informative.I am being introduce to a lot of fruits, veggies and other foods which otherwise I will not know in my lifetime if not for you! Thanks MM and have a nice lazy Sunday with your family.

    Jun 6, 2010 | 7:24 am

     
  2. Footloose says:

    Referred back to your 1996 post, http://www.marketmanila.com/archives/produce-vendor-florence-italy that was followed by an exchange as to the identity of this fruit in your picture. Although I thought it’s loquat, does not matter much, they are all so closely related anyway. The number of stone/pits though reminds me of the distinction between marron and chataigne.

    Jun 6, 2010 | 8:01 am

     
  3. Marketman says:

    OMGoodness footloose, HOW on earth did you remember that exchange? And managed to find the previous post as well? But here’s even more information… I went back and looked at my other photos of this “nespoli” and it had a smooth rounded bottom, more akin to a nectarine. The fruit pictured in the link you have above to a previous post from Florence, shows a more oval fruit, but more distinctively, with the five flower petal shaped things at the other end from the stem (similar to that found on a mangosteen). So the two fruit are definitely different, but as you say, closely related. In fact, I am now more inclined to believe the older post was indeed a medlar due to the five seed reference… and maybe this one a loquat grown in Italy? Ahhh, where are the botanists or is it “fruitologists” when you need them… :)

    Jun 6, 2010 | 8:20 am

     
  4. Mike says:

    Speaking of rare and exotic fruits, Gollner wrote in his book “The Fruit Hunters” that the best butter fruit, alupag, and kalmon are found in the Philippines. I tried googling them and I found out that butter fruit is a kind of avocado, alupag is related to lychee, but no mention of kalmon. I remember Philippine avocado from desserts mom made, but no clue what the other 2 are. Care to comment Mr. Palengke?

    Jun 6, 2010 | 8:23 am

     
  5. linda says:

    We have a mediterranean-like climate here in South Australia and Loquat trees are just about in every backyard. People just give away the fruits as there’s too much at one time. I don’t see these fruits sold at the markets as every Tom, Dick and Harry has one in their yard.
    MM,just google loquats and go to Unfashionable loquats SBS Food and you can see a loquat tree with fruits.

    Jun 6, 2010 | 8:38 am

     
  6. Lerker says:

    I almost choked on my iced tea when someone mentioned a “1996” post. I didn’t learn how to go on the internet until 1998. Hehe.

    Jun 6, 2010 | 8:51 am

     
  7. Marketman says:

    Lerker, 2006… Hahaha. It’s been a while since I started this blog, but I am not THAT old. :)

    Jun 6, 2010 | 9:07 am

     
  8. Marketman says:

    Mike, sorry, my local fruit knowledge is pretty limited by professional standards… avocados were introduced to the Philippines from South America, so it must refer to a variety that has evolved here in the past few hundred years maybe? Will have to keep my eyes and ears alert for either fruit in future… linda, thanks for the tip!

    Jun 6, 2010 | 9:09 am

     
  9. Footloose says:

    Mike, did he give a local name for butter fruit? I hope it is not that universally execrated canistel or tiesa. Alupag, we have that in our town and they do indeed look and taste like lichees only smaller, about the size of longans. If calmon is the same as what we call katmon, it looks like a light skinned and very fleshy round artichoke and truly tart. In fact, it was suggested somewhere here as one of many potential souring agents for Marketman’s projected sinigang monograph.

    Jun 6, 2010 | 9:13 am

     
  10. Marketman says:

    Mike, check out this previous post on favorite fruits of readers, and with a link to my rundown of local fruits covered thus far. Catmon/Katmon is the fruit after which the town Catmon is named in Cebu. I have not seen the fruit, and a couple of folks have asked me about it before. Here is more on the tree, but I haven’t found a photo of the fruit yet. Here is a photo of alupag or dimocarpus didyma. As for butter fruit, maybe they were referring to Mabolo/Kamagong, that is sometimes referred to as “butterfruit” in some sources, but I don’t think is closely related to avocados.

    Jun 6, 2010 | 9:58 am

     
  11. meh says:

    here in Florida that’s called loquat, and it is available in early spring in great abundance. aside from the ubiquitous citruses, it’s the first local fruit to ripen, hence it’s very welcome for both foraging humans and birds. it makes great jams/preserves…

    Jun 6, 2010 | 10:21 am

     
  12. kurzhaar says:

    Definitely a loquat.

    I have only seen medlars a couple of times and they were immature fruit at the time. I understand that the ripe fruit must be allowed to decompose to some extent (either by letting the harvested fruit continue to ripen after picking or by freezing the fruit then thawing it) before it is edible…which sounds a bit off-putting. BUT I have it from a reliable source that medlar jelly is worth making, something like quince jelly, and since I love quince jelly, I have medlar jelly on my list of to-try foods.

    Jun 6, 2010 | 1:16 pm

     
  13. Marketman says:

    Here is a great photo of medlars. So I guess these are nespoli/loquat/Japanese medlars and not European medlars. Hmmm, it seems from further research, the term “nespoli” is used in reference to BOTH medlars and loquats. I guess similar to the way Tagalogs refer to tambis as makopa and the other way around, but they are fruit from different trees… :)

    Jun 6, 2010 | 2:08 pm

     
  14. Footloose says:

    You can use pomologist instead of fruitologist if you do not want to feel as though you are coining a neologism or committing a solecism. From the latin root for fruit, pomum which also begot their goddess of fruit trees, Pomona. You can gaze up at a nude statue of her right in front of the Plaza Hotel in NYC. If you google Plaza Hotel and keep clicking on the map, it will show you a 360° view of that corner. Unfortunately, a passing bus and a tree completely cover this public nudity from view.

    Jun 6, 2010 | 9:11 pm

     
  15. Marketman says:

    Footloose, my favorite book of the moment is a silly one, a gift from friends who have recently returned from a trip to Rome… it’s called “Latin for All Occasions” and has these translations for everyday things you might say like “Parce, sodes, glutamoto monosodio” for “Please, no MSG” or “Habesne “olyzam flictam?” Hae, hae, hae for “Do you have ‘flied lice?’ Ha ha ha. Or Ursuli Gumminosi for gummy bears and Quate et Coque for Shake and Bake. It’s on the top of the heap of books on my bedside table. :)

    Jun 6, 2010 | 9:32 pm

     
  16. sha says:

    just bought some here in Valencia.. here are some market pics http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=170949&id=554446658&l=c1b4993659

    Jun 6, 2010 | 11:57 pm

     
  17. Marketman says:

    Thanks for the link to photos Sha, beautiful as always. And yes, nispero/nespoli, I guess it is in season… :)

    Jun 7, 2010 | 5:19 am

     
  18. alilay says:

    pic of loquats from my MIL’s backyard in San Diego taken last memorial day http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=12615447&id=724280264

    Jun 7, 2010 | 10:57 am

     
  19. deebee says:

    Here in Portugal, it’s called nespera. Grown in backyards, it’s the equivalent of bayabas. Nothing spectacular about it’s taste though. And yes, it’s in season now.

    Jun 7, 2010 | 11:01 pm

     
  20. Jack Hammer says:

    The second picture is definitely a loquat…one of the ingredients of the Chinese hang-over and general pick-me-up medicine “Pipa Gao” which one can buy from Chinese pharmacies on Ongpin in Binondo, Manila.

    Loquat has five ovules of which one to five mature into seed(s)…but so far I have always come across one seed only, it grows in the Sahyadri Range of Mountains in
    Western India.

    It was formerly thought to be closely related to the genus Mespilus, and is still sometimes known as the Japanese medlar.

    Jun 7, 2010 | 11:03 pm

     
  21. Mike says:

    Thanks for the info and links MM. Footloose, the author did not mention the local name of butter fru it.

    Jun 8, 2010 | 9:25 am

     
  22. rubie says:

    Hi MM! I saw that fruit in the farmers market here in Long Beach, It reminded me of chico not of the taste but of the flesh, the way it is attached to the seed.

    Jun 10, 2010 | 3:31 am

     
  23. EJ says:

    Hi, they look like Japanese medlars to me or “nespoli de giappone” in Italian. There were plenty of these in Sicily when I visited in spring/summer 2007. (The plural form of nespolo is nespoli.) You’re right – very much like apricots. These 2 websites provide useful info and distinguish between the German medlar and Japanese medlar: http://www.agraria.org/coltivazioniarboree/nespolodelgiappone.htm
    http://www.agraria.org/coltivazioniarboree/nespolocomune.htm

    Jun 18, 2010 | 4:48 am

     
  24. Kitchen Butterfly says:

    they are Japanese Medlars (took me a whole year to discover them) aka Loquats aka Mispers/Mispels (in Dutch, the reason why I couldn’t find out what they were initially!) I agree the taste sensation is not mind blowing….interesting but…could easily pass it up for a peach. or pear!

    Jun 20, 2010 | 5:17 am

     
  25. katherine says:

    Loquat is for cough and lung in Chinese medicine. Sometimes i would take the Ninjiom Pei Pa Koa (a famous loquat syrup) when got scratchy throat.

    You can access info online @
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nin_Jiom_Pei_Pa_Koa
    ninjiom.50webs.com

    Sep 10, 2010 | 4:43 pm

     
  26. romana says:

    i was born in san ferdinando, reggio calabria. i recall eatingthese fruits in the summertime and loved them. i have yet to find them in north america, and i am very happy to see them here after 50 years. next year on my trip to my home town, iwill certainly look for them.

    Jul 13, 2011 | 6:30 am

     
 

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