Enter the loquat, Florida's springtime gem

To have never known a loquat is as much a deprivation as to have never known love.

click to enlarge Enter the loquat, Florida's springtime gem - David Z. Morris
David Z. Morris
Enter the loquat, Florida's springtime gem

They are here, across the city, turning from green to orange.

The perfect balance of sweet and tart. The most delicious fruit you can’t buy in a grocery store.

The Loquats are coming.

If that name sounds funny and unfamiliar, you are just as I was three short years ago — so naïve and unworldly. I pity you, just as I pity my past self, because (and I am not exaggerating here) to have never known a loquat is as much a deprivation as to have never known love.

The loquat will complete you. It will fill the deep well of emptiness that you rarely admit is there. It will distract you, perhaps forever, from the essential unknowability of life’s meaning.

Luckily, a house I moved into about three years ago had a loquat tree in the backyard. I took a risk that first spring, and pulled one down, without even knowing what it was, and ate it.

A loquat is thumb-sized or a bit larger, and, at its peak ripeness, yellow with just a hint of orange. In a sign of the entirely impeccable experience that awaits the loquat-eater, it can be peeled with a set of convenient natural tabs at one end.

After peeling, you have choices because the loquat respects your individuality. You can either pop the entire fruit in your mouth (recommended for first-timers), or take smaller bites. Either way, you will be struck first by a solid hit of tartness, but the sweetness will catch up and balance it out, like the first sip of chardonnay.

As you process the loquat’s impeccably balanced flavor, you may also think to yourself, “My god, this fruit’s flesh is practically the perfect texture — buttery and firm and moist. It is a pleasure to bite, or simply to let dissolve in my mouth.”

You will think this. And then, you’ll inevitably bite into the loquat, but DO IT WITH SOME RESPECT because there are two or maybe three seeds nestled within that sweet, tangy, firm, moist flesh. Seeds are, of course, the least pleasant part of eating many fruits. But did you already forget? This is a loquat.

The loquat is flawless, and its seeds are integral to the rapture of our experience, we, the tribe of Loquat-Eaters.

The seeds of the loquat are perfectly smooth, and roughly cylindrical. Which means you can spit them, very satisfyingly, if not always great distances. It feels great regardless, like just the thing you should be doing as a Florida spring arrives.

Naturally, since discovering the loquat, and the tree full of them every spring in my backyard, I have begun to anticipate their arrival the way many people look forward to Christmas. No, to be more precise: the way many people look forward to the actual return of Christ.

If you’re not lucky enough to have a loquat tree in your backyard, I’m not aware of any grocery store that stocks them, even in season. I’m guessing they’re too delicate for transport.

That, and I’m fairly sure the peach industry is at the head of a vast conspiracy to marginalize a superior fruit that would instantly send thousands of peach farmers across Georgia into ignoble destitution. After you’ve had a loquat, peaches will be revealed as the bland, vile things they are. It’ll be like that scene in Snowpiercer where they discover the protein bars are made out of cockroaches.

Yes, I’m talking about peaches. YOU WILL SPIT THEM OUT LIKE COCKROACHES.

Even if you don’t have a loquat tree in your backyard, you can probably find one to sample. Just take a walk around, say, southeast Seminole Heights. You’ll see yellow-orange bundles tantalizingly dangling over fences. I’m not advocating what some might consider theft. But as you near them, take a moment to listen to those loquats, dangling at easy plucking level.

“Eat me,” they’re saying. “Put me in your mouth. Forbidden fruit tastes even better.”

The loquat, you see, is amoral — a force of nature, beyond the ken of man. And it may betimes lead mere humans astray, not unlike the sirens who so tempted Odysseus.

I nearly forgot the peach’s pit. Yes, thanks, I just gnawed through a half inch of flavorless leather, and my reward is a dried tumor.

So, my children, go, now, and seek out the loquat. Find it by any means necessary. Transgress every law of man. The loquat is your only god now.

Find the loquat, and devour it until you lay in a pile of its dainty skins, and your bellies are distended and painful, and you are barely conscious, and your tongues have that feeling where you might be having a mild allergic reaction of some kind. But DO NOT STOP, by god, until not one more loquat will fit into your syrupy mouths, until your hands are as sticky as flytraps. Do not stop until you must, and then squeeze in just one more loquat.

Because we must live today, the only day we have.

Because tomorrow, the loquat will be gone.

And it won’t be back until next spring.

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