chocolate is a verb

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Tag Archives: loquat

horticulture…

Loquats and Mountain BirdBelow the retaining wall that held our back slope in place, my father leveled a narrow terrace where, at my mother’s urging, he planted a trio of small trees. One was an exotic flowering shrub of some sort that never produced flowers. The second was an orange tree that burst into intoxicating bloom each year. Its fragrance would waft up the hill and into the house, the blossoms transform themselves into fruit as round and green as peas, and then fall off. It never yielded an orange larger than a hazelnut.

With my mother standing at the edge of the patio offering suggestions from above, my father tried ministrations of every sort, to no avail. Perhaps it was the slope or the soil or the oily fallout of the adjacent row of eucalyptus, but neither of the trees could deliver on their promise.

After that, each year, my mother invested all of her hope in the third tree, a loquat. This robust individual could do nothing but bear fruit. I was oblivious to its progress, but at some point my mother would start issuing daily instructions for me to descend the hill and “check the loquats.” This I did by giving the fruit a few little squeezes and bringing back a promising sample for her to examine.

loquat - Eriobotrya japonicaI’m not sure what she had in mind — she certainly never made jam — but these were labor-intensive fruits. About the size of a walnut but pear-like in shape, they had tough, slightly furred skin, three, four or five large, slimy, glossy brown seeds, and, in between the skin and the seeds, perhaps an eighth of an inch of flesh that was an astringent cross between an apricot and a pear. (The exemplars in this photo are voluptuous compared to the loquats we grew.)

At any rate, one day the sample I brought up would prove suitable and my mother would set out a large basket for the next morning’s harvest. There were hundreds of loquats on the tree.

The following morning, as directed, I would carry the basket down the steps and across the terrace and, without fail, the tree would be stripped bare, the birds having arisen at dawn to confirm Dorothy’s assessment of ripeness and not paused, as I had, for breakfast cereal. A scattering of shriveling, pecked fruits on the ground were all that remained.

This scenario was repeated annually for perhaps five years until Dorothy gave up and the loquat tree became a sort of family shorthand for referring to things that looked promising but never quite delivered.
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Loquat and Mountain Bird painting
Loquat photo

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