Hi Local Beeters,
Hope all is well with my Chicago readers and that everyone is safe after yesterday’s scary weather.
I have to tell you about a produce mystery.
On today’s trip to my Mercado Central, I noticed a new fruit that I had never seen before at my regular vendor’s stall. I asked him what it was, but all he could tell me was the Spanish name: níspola. He convinced me to buy a few, warned me that there were pits and to peel it and then sent me on my way. Very strange.
Upon arriving home, I washed a níspola, peeled away a small slice and took a careful bite. Result: a crazy explosion of flavor somewhere between an apricot on steroids and a lemon. The inside of the fruit was soft and delicate and the intense orange color of cooked butternut squash.
I knew I had to find out what this mystery fruit was. Several Google searches later, I arrived at the conclusion that the níspola is none other than the loquat, a fruit native to south-central China but now grown frequently in Spain.
The níspola, loquat or Japanese medlar fruit was imported to Spain from Asia in the 18th century. It grows best in full sun and is extremely tolerant to wind–an excellent combination for Almería, where we have plenty of both.
Different varieties of the loquat have been planted all over the world, from India to San Diego. According to my fruit and vegetable man, the season is just starting now and will be in full bloom by mid-May, ending before the true heat of the summer hits.
A majority of the níspola fruits grown here on the Costa Tropical (located in the province of Granada, just a few hours away from Almería) are exported to Europe. But luckily for me, I have three slightly bruised, incredibly fragrant loquats/Japanese medlar fruits/níspolas sitting in my fruit bowl, waiting to be devoured any number of ways.
Have you ever discovered a local fruit or vegetable that’s new to you? Let me know in the comments!
Signing off from Spain,