There is one particular type of fruit that marks the passage from the winter to the summer… in my very personal world at least.
And in the broadest possible sense of the terms “winter” (as in that time of the year where you have to work, work, work – at least if you work in the field of education as I do – and the weather is cold and miserable and the holidays are far away) and “summer” (as in that time of the year where jumpers can finally be stored away, you can sit in the sun and enjoy it, school is almost over, the holidays are almost here). I am talking about “nespole“, which in English should be loquats according to my dictionary.
Now, for those who don’t know “nespole” (I’ll stick to the Italian name), they look somewhat like apricots, but their skin is smooth and the pulp is “watery”. They can be either quite acidic or very sweet: there is no way to know just by looking at them or by touching them. Generally, smaller nespole are sweeter than big ones. A bit like strawberries. We have a saying which is “nella botte piccola ci sta il vino buono” (good wine is stored in small barrels).
I don’t think that they are a very well-known or popular type of fruit: they are originally from Japan and are a type of rosacean plant, but they are quite common in Italy.
In Tuscany it is not uncommon to see loquat trees covered in thick, dark-green foliage and a myriad of small yellow balls in early May. There are generally a number of blackbirds hovering about them too! They contribute to the sound of the Tuscan spring!
Anyway, today I went shopping and when I saw strawberries and loquats on the shelves I suddenly felt I was almost on holiday! It was one of those sudden and unexpected good feelings that come with a bundle of good memories, undefinable thoughts and the anticipation of the next sin of gluttony!
Sometimes I am amazed at how much simple things, often tastes and smells, are associated with the various moments of our lives. I am always very happy when May comes, because besides being the most beautiful month of the year, I have always associated this time of the year, its weather, colours, smells, and sounds, with the end of the school year and hence with the holidays. And since after the “oranges” and “apples” of the winter come the “strawberries”, “loquats” and “asparagus” of the spring before the “cherries” and “apricots” of the early summer and the “peaches”, “plums”, and “melons” of the summer, a box of nespole on a supermarket shelf is enough to make my day!
For those who dare to try everything, there is also another type of nespola, that I believe is called “medlar” in English. That type is available in October, and it is very sour. Generally you need to store it in hay and eat it after a few months, when it’s much sweeter.
A curiosity. Loquat honey is a rarity that is available only in the area of Palermo. It is produced in December, when elsewhere in the country bees are already dormant.
Ok, time to finish this post, my very personal “ode to the loquat“!
Unfortunately, like all the REALLY good things, loquats don’t last very long. Neither in the supermarket nor on my sideboard!