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Urban Foraging: Vegan Mint and Loquat Ice Cream

In my previous post we explored foraging in the urban landscape. Food is growing wild all over our cities, we just need to retrain our eyes to see it. One of my favorite fruits to forage in Los Angeles is the loquat. This hardy tropical looking tree is a popular landscape plant. Most people don’t realize it has edible fruit until they see the fruit sold in the farmer’s market for $5 per small box. Early spring means taking a bike trip to search for ripening loquats to transform into loquat ice cream.

A bicycle is the best way to spot loquats.

What is a Loquat

The loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a tree native to southeastern China that has become popular throughout Asia and much of the world. The flowers appear as early as late fall or early winter leading to fruit in early spring.  Loquats are one of the first fruits of the season to ripen.

Loquats are about 1-2 inches long and grow in clusters. Their flesh is golden-yellow to deep orange. The flesh inside is white or orange with a pear-like crispness and sweet to tart flavor depending on the variety. Inside, there is anywhere from 1-10 large seeds. These seeds contain small amounts of cyanogenic glycosides (which turns to cyanide when chewed) and should not be eaten.

Loquats are high in dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin A and manganese. They are eaten raw, turned into jams, jellies and chutneys, used in baked goods, and fermented into wine. In China a loquat syrup is made to soothe sore throats. In Japan mature loquat leaves are used for tea that fights inflammation.

Growing

Loquat trees are easy to grow in the right climate. They are tough are largely pest-free. They are popular landscape trees as they usually only reach about 25 feet tall (although there is a 40 foot tall one in my neighborhood).

Depending on the variety, loquat trees can be self-fertile (both male and female flowers on the same tree) or not self-fertile (in which case you would need two trees for pollination). I suggest looking for self-fertile varieties like ‘Thales.’

Loquat trees can tolerate cold weather down to 10°F but for good fruit production should only be planted in areas with late winter lows above 30°F.

Loquat roots are shallow and do not compete well with weeds so a layer of mulch will be greatly beneficial for your tree.

Urban loquat tree.

Making Vegan Mint and Loquat Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 10 – 15 loquats
  • Handful of mint leaves
  • 5.6 oz can of coconut milk or coconut cream
  • 2 cups plain unsweetened almond or soy milk
  • 1/3 cup agave syrup
  • 1/8 tsp. iodized salt
  • Shredded coconut for garnish (optional).

*Note: you will need an ice cream maker for this recipe. I use this Cuisinart one, it is probably the kitchen tool I have the most fun with. 

Procedure

  • Freeze your ice cream bowl for the recommended amount of time (between 5-12 hours).
  • Cut a small section off the end of each loquat and peel the skin off.
  • Remove the seeds by halving the loquats and scooping them out.
  • In a blender pulse loquats, mint leaves, coconut milk, almond or soy milk, agave syrup and salt. Add mixture to your frozen ice cream bowl and run for 20-25 minutes.
  • Store in freezer. When ready to serve garnish with mint leaves and toasted coconut if using.

 

Tried it? Have another loquat ice cream recipe? Let us know.

 

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