From Mediterranean Fruits
By Joan Tous and Louise Ferguson


The loquat (Eriobotrya japonica, Rosaceae) is a small, evergreen tree native to central-eastern China, introduced into Japan in very early times. In Europe it was planted in the 18th century (Morton 1987). It is grown both as an ornamental and for its fruit. The total world crop was estimated as 150,000 t. It has been cultivated extensively in the Mediterranean basin (Spain, Algeria, Turkey, Israel, and Italy), Japan and China, to some extent in India and Brazil, and in a more limited fashion in Chile and the United States. Spain is the world's largest producer (40,000 t) and exporter of loquats, follow by Algeria (22,000 t), Japan (18,000 t), China, and Brazil (Lupescu et al. 1980; Morton 1987; Llacer et al. 1994). The tree grows best in a subtropical to warm-temperate climate. It does well on a variety of soils but does best on clay loams with good drainage.

The fruits, which are borne in large loose clusters, are commonly round, oval, or pyriform and in the best cultivars may reach a length of 7 cm. They vary in color from pale yellow to deep orange and have a tough plumlike skin. The flesh is white to orange, firm or soft, juicy, and flavorful. From 1 to 4 smooth, brown seeds are commonly found in each fruit. The seeds comprise about 20% to 30% of the weight of the whole fruit (Insero et al. 1990). Loquats are consumed largely as fresh fruit, although small amounts are used in jams, jellies, syrups, and pies (Shaw 1980). Loquats are high in vitamin A and minerals (Table 2). For the fresh market they should not be picked before full maturity; otherwise they are too acid. If properly handled they can be shipped to distant markets.

Generally, the loquat tree blooms in the autumn with fruits ripening in early spring (Apr.-May). They are normally pollinated by bees, but some cultivars such as 'Akko 13' from Israel and 'Golden Yellow' from India are not self-fertile, and others such as 'Advance' and 'Tanaka' are partially self-fertile. It has been observed that cross-pollination generally results in 10% to 17% increased production over self-pollination (Morton 1987). A list of important cultivars are: 'Advance', 'Algerie', 'Akko 13', 'Champagne', 'Magdall', 'Premier', 'Saint Michel', 'Tanaka', 'Thales' (syn. 'Gold Nugget'), etc. (Knight 1980; Morton 1987; Pathak and Gautam 1990).

The tree requires a minimal pruning, but some thinning of fruits may be required for optimum size. It is propagated mainly by budding or grafting onto seedling rootstocks; quince root can be used if a dwarf tree is desired. The tree comes into bearing in three to four years and the yield in the new orchards is very high (25 t/ha, Blumenfeld 1994). They are hand-harvested by clipping bunches of fruit and are sorted and graded by hand. The most important problems cause damage to the fruit rind, which downgrades fruit quality. In Europe two disorders damage the fruit rinds (Caballero 1993): sunburn ('purple spot'), a physiological disorder directly related to the calcium content in the fruit tissues, and the fungal black spot (Fusicladium eriobotryae). In California two diseases that sometimes create problems are fireblight (Erwinia amylovora) and loquat scab (Spilocea pyracanthae) (Ogawa and English 1991).

The overall production is steadily increasing. Several countries, such as Spain, Brazil, and India, are expected to increase commercial plantings of this crop. An interesting commercial aspect of loquat is that it ripens in early spring before other fruits (cherries, apricots, peaches, and plums) appear in the market. The most important problems (physiological and disease) result in a damaged fruit rind, which downgrades the fruit quality. Also, there is a need to reduce the labor costs of hand thinning and manual harvesting.



In recent years, perhaps because of the crises that many agricultural sectors have experienced, and because of the need for new crop alternatives, and also for health reasons, interest has developed in traditional Mediterranean fruits. At present, olives, mandarins, figs, persimmons, and pistachios are receiving more research interest than other Mediterranean crops because these crops are sufficiently extensive and profitable enough to support university based research. As long as these crops continue to be profitable money for research support and market development will be available. However, the minor crops such as pomegranates, cactus pear, carob, and loquat do not have organized industries to support their research and market development. It now falls to nascent industry organizations, rare fruit grower associations, national agricultural services and individuals to develop these crops until they become more popular. Information about these less popular "new" crops is available online through such World Wide Web (WWW) home pages as the University of California Fruit and Nut Crop Research and Information Center and NewCROP (New Crop Resource Online Program) developed by Purdue University in Indiana.

Carbohydrates Minerals Vitamins
Crop/Product Water (%) Cal. Protein (g) Fat (g) Total (g) Fiber (g) Ash (g) Ca (mg) P (mg) Fe (mg) Na (mg) K (mg) A (IU) Thiamine (mg) Riboflavin (mg) Niacin (mg) Ascorbic acid (mg)
Olive (ripe pulp) 70.8 163 1.2 18.6 -- 1.7 2.1 79 19 0.9 760 48 200 0.01 0.18 0.1 3
Mandarin 87.0 45 0.8 0.1 13.0 0.5 0.3 30 23 0.4 5 140 30 0.08 0.03 0.2 45
Fig, fresh 78.0 80 1.3 0.3 20.3 2.0 0.6 50 22 0.6 2 194 80 0.06 0.05 0.4 2
Fig, dried 23.0 274 4.3 1.3 69.0 5.6 2.3 126 77 3.0 34 640 100 0.10 0.10 0.7 0
Persimmon 79.0 77 0.7 0.4 19.6 1.2 -- 6 26 0.3 6 174 2710 0.03 0.02 0.2 15
Pomegranate (pulp) 82.3 65 0.9 0.3 16.4 0.3 0.5 3 8 0.7 3 259 Tr 0.02 0.03 0.3 4
Pistachio nut 5.3 594 19.3 54.0 19.0 2.0 2.7 131 500 7.3 -- 972 230 0.70 0.20 1.4 0
Carob flour 11.2 180 4.5 1.4 80.7 7.7 2.2 352 81 5.0 -- 950 50 0.03 0.05 2.5 --
Cactus pear (fruit pulp) 85.0 38 0.5 0.1 11.0 1.8 1.6 60 34 0.8 0.8 161 40 0.01 0.02 0.3 30
Loquat 86.5 168 1.4 0.7 43.3 0.9 -- 70 126 1.4 -- 348 2340 -- -- -- 3


Table 2. Nutritional composition of Mediterranean crops (per 100 g of edible portion). Source: Goulart (1980); Sawaya et al. (1983); Fernandez Diez (1983); IBPGR (1986); Morton (1987); Cantwell (1994).  
Mediterranean Diet Pyramid

This Mediterranean Diet Pyramid was co-developed and jointly released in 1994 by Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust, the World Health Organization (WHO) European Regional Office, and the WHO/FAO Collaboration Center in Nutritional Epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health.

Last update August 22, 1997 aw

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Tous, J. and L. Ferguson. "Loquat". Mediterranean fruits. p. 416-430. In: J. Janick (ed.). Progress in new crops. 1996. Web. 8 Oct. 2014.

Published 8 Oct. 2014 LR
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