Wildflowers and loquats

My recent trip to Devine was wonderful! Of course, by the time I got there my mind was on overload from seeing all the beautiful fields of wild flowers. Not only were there more than ample Indian Paintbrushes, the pink, white and yellow buttercups were out in profusion, and between Floresville and Pleasanton, the white and purple prickly poppies were really abundant. In some places, they were so mixed together that it looked as if a giant hand had made bouquets of them, just as you would mix flowers together in the house. In one area, the pink, lavender, yellow and white looked like the pastel colors on an artist’s palette. As I said, it was a beauty overload for my poor brain. The last time I remember seeing as many flowers as this trip was about four or so years ago when I had to take a detour of several miles off of Hwy. 97 due to a wreck. Looking around trying to see everything I wanted to see was like watching a tennis game, eyes back and forth over and over. God has been busy this spring season!
And, as of Sunday morning, it seemed as if it was back to wintertime. I walked out the door wearing a light jacket and very promptly turned around to get something heavier, and when I got to church and had to walk across our very open and exposed parking lot, with the wind blowing out of the north, I was glad I had done so. By the time I got home from church, the temperature had dropped a little lower still, being 46ºF., and that was pretty cool after all of our 70ºF days.
Have you noticed how loaded the loquat trees are this year? Do you know the difference between a loquat and kumquat? Have you ever eaten either one? Well, today, we are going to discuss this topic. My daughter called my attention to the fact that the loquats are really plentiful this year. I had not noticed until she did. The fruit is clustered so thickly on the branches that you can barely see the leaves on the branches of most of the loquat trees in my area also, with many of them having such thick clusters of fruit that the branches are almost breaking under the weight. The work involved in making jam out of the fruit is pretty labor intensive, so most people just let the birds have the fruit, and, there really aren’t many recipes out there for using it.
I went into Yahoo and found quite a bit of information there, in fact one of the sites had 14 pages of information. Of course, part of these pages were dedicated to the names and descriptions of the over 40 different varieties of loquats. It made for interesting reading, and I am just giving you the gist of the information.
I asked you at the beginning of the article if you knew the difference between a loquat and a kumquat, and my dictionary gives the following of a kumquat: “an orange colored oval fruit about the size of a small plum, with a sour pulp and a sweet rind, used in preserves and confections.” The skin is very thin and they can be eaten out of hand just as you would a peach or plum. They are about an inch to an inch-and-a-half long and about three-fourths of an inch in diameter. The trees they grow on do not get very big. At one time, near his greenhouse, Mr. Bill Schneider (the avocado man), had one or two kumquat trees, and I was able to taste the fruit. It reminds me of the taste of some type of citrus fruit.
When I was growing up, my neighbor had a loquat tree at the corner of her front porch so I ate some at a young age. When one of my daughters were living in a duplex in San Antonio, there was a very large loquat tree next to her house. As the loquats became ripe, the children walking home from school were always trying to climb the tree to pick and eat them!
As far as I can remember, Mother never used loquats for jam or any type of dessert. It seems that at some point in time, I made jelly from some, but am not positive of this.
The following is from the information I got off a website on Yahoo using simply the word Loquat.
A fruit of wide appeal, the loquat, Eriobotrya japnica Lindl., of the rose family, Rosaceae, has been called Japan, or Japanese, plum and Japanese medlar. It is indigenous to southeastern China and was introduced into Japan where it became naturalized in very early times. It has been cultivated in Japan for over 1,000 years. It has also become naturalized in India and many other areas. Chinese immigrants are presumed to have carried the loquat to Hawaii. It was common as a small-fruited ornamental in California in the 1870’s, and the improved variety, Giant, was being sold there by 1887. Japan is the leading producer of loquats, followed by Israel and Brazil. Cultivation has also spread to Southeast Asia, the medium altitudes of the East Indies, and Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
In the New World, it is cultivated from South America, Central America and Mexico to California. Also, since 1867, in southern Florida and northward to the Carolinas, though it does not fruit north of Jacksonville.
The loquat is a large evergreen shrub or small tree with a rounded crown, short trunk and wooly new twigs. The tree can grow 20 to 30 feet high, but is usually much smaller, averaging about 10 feet. They are easy to grow and are often used as an ornamental to add a tropical look to the garden.
The evergreen leaves, mostly whorled at the branch tips are elliptical-lanceloate to obovate lanceolate, 5 to 12 inches long and 3 to 4 inches wide. They are dark green and glossy on the upper surface, with whitish or rusty-hairy on the bottoms. They are thick, stiff and have conspicuous parallel, oblique veins, each usually terminating at the margin in a sharp prickly point. (Think – roughly oval). The flowers are very fragrant, white, 5-petaled, ½ to ¾-inch wide and are borne in terminal panicles of 30 to 100 blooms. The fruit is in clusters of four to thirty, are oval, round or pear-shaped. (The ones around our area are usually oval). Their skin is relatively smooth, yellow to orange, with a white, yellow or orange pulp, which is generally fairly sweet, when they are ripe. They have 3 to 4 large seeds in each fruit.
Loquat trees tend to overbear and consequently the fruit borne in clusters may be small. Some folks like to eat them fresh or make pies from them. The jelly is considered a real delicacy.
The seed is highly toxic, so cut the fruit from the seed before eating fresh or cooking to extract the juice.
Loquat Jelly
5 lbs. ripe loquats
1 cup water
½ cup lemon juice
1 package SureJell
5½ cups sugar
Wash and stem loquats. Remove seeds. Place in pot, add water and simmer covered 15 minutes. Strain juice through a jelly bag. Measure 3½ cups juice with the lemon juice in a large kettle. If more juice is needed, fill last cup or fraction of cup with water. Add pectin. Stir well. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the sugar and mix well. Continue stirring and bring to a full, rolling boil. Boil exactly 2 minutes. Remove from fire and let boiling subside. Skim carefully. Pour into hot sterilized jelly glasses, leaving ½-inch head space at top to cover at once with melted paraffin or pour into hot sterilized jars and seal with sterilized lids.
Now, since I feel as if I have neglected giving you meatless dishes in the past couple of columns, here are a few dishes to try.
Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo
1 pound peeled, deveined shrimp, tails removed (buy the ready-to-use, raw shrimp at the grocery store)
1/3 cup butter
½ cup milk (a little more if necessary)
1 block (8-oz) cream cheese cut into cubes
¼ cup or more to taste Parmesan cheese
1 or 2 Tbs. chopped parsley
¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ package of Fettuccine (The brand at HEB is a 16-oz package, use half unless you can find a 7 or 8-oz package of another brand)
Use a large pot and cook Fettuccine according to package directions. When done, drain well, and set aside, saving ½ cup of the cooking water.
Thaw the shrimp if necessary, slice in half lengthwise and set aside in fridge. Melt the butter in a skillet or a pot and add the milk, add the diced cream cheese and cook and stir over low heat until the cheese is melted and smooth. Add the shrimp and cook and stir until they change color, remove from heat and combine the sauce with the cooked Fettuccine, adding some of the cooking water if necessary, to thin a little; add the Parmesan just before serving and mix in until combined. Serve more at the table if desired. (If you want to do this the quick and easy way, buy a jar of Alfredo sauce at the grocery store, the ready to use cooked shrimp and heat the two together and add the cooked Fettuccine and sprinkle each serving with shredded Parmesan cheese. Serve with a salad and some garlic bread and voila, you have a delicious, and quick meal!).
Sugar Snap Pea and Shrimp Stir Fry
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed
½ cup canned, sliced water chestnuts
12 to 16-oz large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
2 tablespoons Ponzu sauce (Japanese soy sauce), (HEB handles this).
3 cups cooked long-grain white rice
In a large skillet or wok, heat 1 Tbs. oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds; add the sugar snap peas and water chestnuts; season with salt and pepper if desired and cook stirring until the peas are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.
In the same skillet, heat the remaining 1 Tbs. oil over medium/high heat and add the shrimp in a single layer. Cook without stirring until pink on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn the shrimp, add the Ponzu sauce and cook until the shrimp are cooked through, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vegetables; cook until heated through, about 2 more minutes.
Serve with cooked rice.
Grilled Shrimp Scampi
2 T. Olive oil
2 T. lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp, salt
1½ lbs. Uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
In a large bowl, whisk the first four ingredients. Add shrimp; toss to coat. Refrigerate, covered, 30 minutes. Thread shrimp onto skewers; grill, covered over medium heat or broil 4-inches from heat for 6-8 minutes, turning once.