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Florida Loquat Festival returns to New Port Richey March 24

By Diane Bedard Posted on March 8, 2018

Have you ever wondered what a loquat is? We know about kumquats, the small citrus fruit that is both sweet and tart and has its own festival each year in Dade City, but loquats are less well-known.

When Dell and Marilynn DeChant got to thinking about urban gardening and sustainability, the small underappreciated loquat took center stage, so they decided to start a festival to educate and celebrate Eriobotrya japonica in their hometown. Now, Ecology Florida and Friendship Farms & Fare, with the support of the City of New Port Richey, will host the fifth annual Florida Loquat Festival on Saturday, March 24 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Frances Avenue Park (6156 Louisiana Avenue, 34653) in New Port Richey and you are invited.

The festival is a learning and sharing event to help expand the knowledge and appreciation of the loquat tree and its fruit. There will be presentations on the cultivation of loquat trees, how to eat its fruit, how to can it and cook with it, including recipes using loquats.

Loquats are small and round or oblong on the tree. The fruit has a similar taste and flavor as that of apples; tart, and sweet with a pleasant aroma. However, they are soft and juicy in texture instead of crispy as in apples. Loquat leaves are employed in traditional medicines, and as herbal tea in many parts of the world. gi8mail / Pixabay

What exactly is a Loquat?

Loquat trees originated in China and spread across the world all the way to the Nature Coast of  Florida. Some of the common names of loquat include Japanese plum, Japanese medlar, and Maltese plum.

The loquat plant can be described as an evergreen, large shrub or small tree belonging to the family of Rosaceae, in the genus; Eriobotrya.

Loquat fruits are small and round or oblong on the tree. It has a similar taste and flavor as apples; tart and sweet with a nice aroma. However, they are soft and juicy in texture. Loquat leaves are employed in traditional medicines, and as herbal tea in many parts of the world.

Best of all, loquat trees grow like crazy in Florida’s Nature Coast. They can be found in cityscapes, forests, and everything in between.

The fruit is delicious peeled and cored on salads, in pies, and makes wonderful preserves and sauces.

 

Find out More about Loquats at the Florida Loquat Festival

Ecology Florida and Friendship Farms & Fare, with the support of the City of New Port Richey, will host the fifth annual Florida Loquat Festival on Saturday, March 24 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Frances Avenue Park (6156 Louisiana Avenue, 34653) in New Port Richey.

The festival is a learning and sharing event to help expand the knowledge and appreciation of the loquat tree and its fruit. There will be presentations on the cultivation of loquat trees, how to eat its fruit, how to can it and cook with it, including recipes using loquats.

Homemade jams will be available for sale at the 2018 Loquat Festival. Recipes will be shared for utilizing the versatile fruit. silviarita / Pixabay

Weather Impact Expected

A January freeze impacted fruit development in main production area, known as the Springs Coast Watershed. There will be some preserves and fresh fruit at the festival, although there may be less of a selection than was available in previous years.

As with other fruit festivals, loquat fruit production is subject to weather conditions, and this year (for the first time in the history of the festival), the freeze was severe enough to impact fruit development.

There will still be loquat jellies and jams to compensate for our missing loquats, and organizers have decided to offer other preserves. In cooperation with local artisan canners, we will work to be sure that visitors will be able to enjoy high quality locally-produced preserves.

Education and Instruction On-Site

An important part of the festival is education. Presentations will include instructions on growing and cultivation of loquat trees, how to eat its fruit, recipes based on loquats, the role of the loquat in sustainable farming and permaculture gardening, and the cultural context of this wonderful tree.

Loquat Festival Literary & Poetry Reading is held at each festival and will be featured at the 2018 event. Educational presentations and tree sales are part of the festivities.

Loquat Trees are Available from Seedlings to Large Trees

A major feature of the festival will be the trees, from seedlings and saplings to large trees. Green Dreams is a major force in the sustainable food and culture movement, offering a wide assortment of organic fruit trees that are suitable for Florida growing.

Green Dreams has been the festival’s primary nursery for several years, and this year it will offer its widest selection yet of high-quality named varieties.  All told, about 150 trees, with nearly 120 coming from Green Dreams will be available. These will include some of each of these varieties: Premier, Golden Nugget, Bradenton, Christmas Oliver, Champaign, Sherry and Yehuda.

All Green Dreams trees will be in three-gallon pots for $45. Other nurseries will have smaller trees lower prices, including seedlings for $5. For best selection of the trees, please come early.

Loquat trees will be available for purchase from seedlings to 3-gallon potted sizes.

About the Florida Loquat Festival in New Port Richey

“To the best of our knowledge, the Florida Loquat Festival in New Port Richey, Florida is the only loquat festival in the United States of America. There are loquat festivals in other parts of the world, including China and Japan, but so far we’ve not learned of any others in the USA” said Dell deChant, one of the event’s organizers.

The festival opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 2 p.m. at Frances Avenue Park in New Port Richey (6156 Louisiana Ave., 34653). The event program begins at 10 a.m., which includes a poetry reading with the focus on the loquat fruit.

The festival will have preserves, seeds, recipes, brochures, lectures, poetry, and fresh fruit. Festival shirts will also be available. For more information about this event scheduled for March 24 (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.), call Marilynn deChant at (727) 849-1626.

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