Loquat, Eriobotrya japonica
Uses : Edible Fruit, Forage. Native to China.
This is a small tree, maybe 20-30 feet tall, but can easily be trimmed into a dwarf style with yearly pruning after fruiting. It is not native, but like the mandarin orange, it can withstand the mild winters in most of Florida. It has been reported that it will not set fruit north of Jacksonville, and I can say that I have never seen loquats growing in Duval, but it could be unknown there.
It sets its flowers in the fall and fruit ripens in the spring. The fruit can be eaten fresh, with the seed removed, or cooked into jellies, added to sauces, or used in any way you would use an apple or pear. They can be dehydrated or canned, with the seed and peel removed for canning. The fruit should be an orange color and soft when fully ripe, if hrd and yellow it is not ready. The fruit ripens on the tree and will not ripen adequately once picked.
I suspect the reason not more people enjoy this delicious fruit is that it has a shelf-life of about a week. I have seen it at the farmer's market just once, and never in the grocery store. Usually all the fruit ripens on the tree at about the same time, much like its cousin the apple. Also wine can be made from the crushed fruit in much the same way as you would make apfelwein. A winery near Gainesville makes delicious loquat wine, but it is only available locally.
The tree does not seem to have problems with pests, unless you consider birds a pest when they ninja all your ripe fruit.
Loquat Wine Recipe
4 pounds fresh loquats
2 1/4 pounds sugar
Water to one gallon
1 campden tablet (crushed)
1/2 teaspoon pectic enzyme
1 teaspoon acid blend
1/4 teaspoon grape tannin
1/2 teaspoon yeast nutrient