Algarve’s Exotic Loquats

Nespera/Loquat Growing Wild

Nespera By Any Other Name . . .

On my first several trips to the Algarve I kept noticing a fruit tree that I’d never seen before. It seems to grow everywhere, out of cracks and crevices, and each Spring these small trees are loaded with apricot sized and coloured fruit.

Turns out it’s what the locals call Nespera (nesh-pear-a). The woman who first introduced me to the name of the tree was somewhat dismissive of it. “Oh yes,” she said. “Nespera was introduced here and it’s a weed.” This spring I noticed it for sale at the Loulé farmer’s market. The fruit didn’t look especially attractive because it seemed to be quite bruised and beaten up. Turns out that’s the way they look as they ripen. Certainly not one of nature’s ravishing beauties! I bought a few and discovered an interesting plum-like fruit in texture with a couple of large seeds inside. It’s taste was a combination of citrus, mango and peach/nectarine. Pleasant enough, but not an immediate winner in the ‘can’t wait for my next taste’ category.

Imagine my surprise when several weeks after arriving home I noticed a basket of nespera fruit for sale at Pete’s Frootique out in Bedford, NS. Who could miss that combination of creamy beige colour and distinctive brown spots. And then I discovered that they were being sold as loquats. Which led me to discover that the plant was brought back to Portugal at the time of their great discoveries several centuries ago. I always have to chuckle when I realize that something that is taken for granted or dismissed at unimportant in one corner of the world shows up for sale as a precious, rare commodity in another corner of the globe.

I don’t know who in the Halifax area has a taste for pricey loquats, but a Nespera by any name is much better eaten right off a tree you are passing by!

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