The Precious One

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Fresh from the tree, the Akedene is juicy, sweet, and bursting with juice and flavor. But it’s so delicate and decays so quickly that it’s rarely shipped to commercial markets, making it one of the precious spring fruits of Lebanon, its season starting in April. Sometimes it is hanging in many loquat trees around the capital in old buildings front yards.

Akedene or Loqat look like a small apricot-colored pear, although they’re a bit more oval in shape. They range from 1 to 2-and-a-half inches long, and have several glossy brown seeds in the center. The thin skin is slightly downy, and the flesh, which can be deep orange or yellow varies in texture from the crispness of a firm cantaloupe to the juiciness of a ripe peach. The flavor is a pleasant blend of apricot, plum and cherry with floral overtones, and is quite sweet when ripe. It is a most delightful fruit and is originally from China.

Unfortunately it is hard to tell if it will be tangy or sweet. Usually if the fruit is fleshy and the color a deep orange, chances are it will be very sweet. It is high in potassium and Vitamin A and pectin, and lots of other good things too.

This tree is an evergreen tree but its season is very short, because it yields fruit for only one month. It grows in clusters, is pear-shaped, and has from one to five seeds on the inside. The fruit on the trees changes from green to yellow or orange as it ripens.

Superstition drives pregnant women to the loquat orchards in order to ward off strange birthmarks on their baby. Some say that the loquat is similar to an apple fruit in terms of nutritional benefits, however, its season is short and the fruit is more expensive, since it comes at a time of the year when the fruit market is nearly empty. Loquat’s contain 35% protein, 37% fiber, 10% carbohydrates and offer malic, oxalic and citric acid as well as vitamin C. Loquat syrup is used in Chinese medicine for soothing the throat and is a popular ingredient for cough drops.

Noting the beauty of the trees, they also offer protection from strong air and storms due to their thick evergreen leaves. Many citrus farmers plant loquat on the periphery of their groves to protect their other fruit trees. Akedenia, with its lovely hues of orange color and sweet flavor will always taste like home on a sunny day.

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