I grew up in Việt Nam and am lucky to have the opportunities to taste a wide variety of fruits. I have to say the chance for Europeans or Americans to find a strange kind of fruit in Việt Nam is much higher than my chance of coming across a “new” piece of fruit in Europe. So imagine how excited I was to find nespole in France and Italy.
The fruit section in a market always attracts me first. While there I am always looking for something I have not seen before. At the markets in Nice, Ventimiglia, and Firenze, nespole easily caught my eyes. They are beautiful and so cute. When ripe, I assume the ones being sold there are, nespole are yellow and a little translucent. Those I found on display were all plump and shiny, making me feel like I could just get lost piercing through those little jewels.
Holding the nespola in hand, I was not sure how to eat it. It reminds me of the soft persimmon. So I peeled the skin and realized that was the way to go. It peeled like silk. The first bite was heaven: sweet and very very juicy – incredibly refreshing. When I reached the seeds, how surprised: they are beautiful, too: brown and shiny. I couldn’t help thinking about the mangosteen and was eager to do my experiment: I cut around the nespola through the flesh leaving the seeds intact, then pulled open the two halves. Hallelujah: a “flower” is in the center. It looks exactly like a mangosteen cut open with the only difference being that the later has a white center and purple ring – while the first brown and yellow.
If the fruit is not ready to eat, it will be very tart. When plump and soft to the touch, it is fresh. Many people eat nespole when they are completely ripe to the point the skin has dark spots and wrinkles. I didn’t know it then and missed a chance to try. Otherwise, I could have tasted the sweet and tangy flavor of nespole. Maybe next time, in California! Yes, nespole, or loquat as it is called in America, can be found there. Neither have I seen it sold there, nor have I known anybody there who even hears of the name. But I was told I could find some loquat around in somebody’s yard if I look hard. And I will.