Loquat, a Delicious Treat in Cuzco

As long as the rains keep falling the fruit trees continue to produce. An example is the loquat. It is a small and round fruit with a very agreeable scent and refreshing flavor. It has a thin, yellowish peel. It is used in both sauces and desserts.

The majority of the caseras, vendors, who sell loquat, or níspero as we call it in Spanish, to Cuzco obtain it from the Coayllo district of the coastal valley of Cañete. That area is known as the loquat paradise and it is where the fruit is most produced in Peru. Other people do, however, bring it from Cuzco’s own lowland Quillabamba and Santa Teresa. A small amount comes from gardens within the city.

People eat this fruit right off the tree and in different concoctions. For example people love níspero marmalade, stewed loquat, and caramelled loquat. Each of these has incredible flavor and is noticeably the rich taste of loquat. Furthermore they are easy to make.

To make the marmalade, wash the fruit well and then peel them carefully and seed them. Place them to boil in a pot with water, sugar to taste, stick cinnamon, and cloves. The quantity of water should cover the fruit.  When the fruit falls apart let the mixture cool and then place it in a receptacle and refrigerate. You enjoy this wonderful marmalade with some of Cuzco’s chuta breads and coffee for breakfast or in the afternoon at the hour of what, in Cuzco, we call “lonche” a late afternoon or evening snack or light meal.

Stewed loquats are also easy to make. The preparation is similar to that for stewed peaches. Other than the change of fruit, the ingredients are the same.

Bring water to a boil in a pot with cinnamon, cloves, sugar to taste, and peeled loquats. Let it cook at a low boil for about an hour. The cool it and serve it in glasses or bowls. It is ready for a dessert to follow a good lunch.

Stewed Loquat Ready to Eat
Stewed Loquat Ready to Eat

To make caramelled níspero you first put sugar in a pan on low heat until it dissolves and forms a cream. To this you can add red to give it color if you wish. Once the sugar has liquefied you add the fruit and thoroughly cover it with the caramel. If you wish, you can push a thin stick through each of them to make them easier to eat, You can put as many as three loquats per stick. It is now ready to please your palate with sweet fruit.

Candied níspero like this are sold at every event and in the various fairs of the city. Each stick runs one sol, about US $0.40, the same price as candied apples.

Even though it i surprising how such a small fruit can make us enjoy ever concoction in which it appears, people say the loquat can even heal. They say it is good for your stomach when you suffer from loose stools. You can eat it alone or in one of its preparations to guarantee a good digestion.

The fruit is sold in all of the city’s markets, though you find it in only two of the wholesale markets at a good price. Normally it is sold for S/ 3 a kilo, about US $1.40, or S/ 0.50 a mound, US $0.20. With prices like these almost everyone can afford to enjoy this fruit in many different ways.

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