Saturday, February 28, 2009

On nocturnal fruit harvests and spiders

The loquat is the most delicious fruit in the world, bar none. It's got tons of tart sweetness, which, along with chocolate, is pretty much my kryptonite. Most of my favourite things are tart but sweet: strawberries, raspberries, concord grapes, sour Skittles, women... so, it's hardly surprising that the Warheads-like loquat would rank pretty high up on my list. What is surprising, at least to me, is the fact that very few Americans know this fruit, much less eat it. The loquat tree is an exotic from China, but it has spread worldwide within its moderate to sub-tropical climate range. We used to have loquat trees in our house in Uruguay, there were plenty of loquat trees in California, and there are plenty of loquat trees here in Florida. The fruit is not only sublimely delicious, but is also chock-full of Vitamin A and fiber, and hence doubly beneficial for those of us who are myopic, plagued by zits (it's the chocolate, but I can't stay away!), and chronically constipated.

My neighbours had a beautiful loquat tree that yielded a copious bounty right around this time every year, but it was, alas, struck down last year by one of our tropical storms. We rescued a viable branch and planted it in our backyard, and although the results thus far are encouraging, it'll be a while before the branch grows into a fruit-bearing tree. There are, luckily, quite a few loquat trees in our neighbourhood, and a few weeks ago I talked to one of the loquat homeowners about, ahem, picking her fruit. I got her permission, as well as an oddly fearful vibe from her. I'm either crazier-looking than ever in my old age, or the "Hey, I live a few houses down the street, and was wondering whether you eat the fruits from this tree. You don't? That's a shame, they're delicious. Oh, you didn't know they were edible? I assure you, they are. You won't try them? Again, that's a shame. Would you then mind if I came back to harvest these when they're ripe? Excellent, thanks! I've got two lemon trees that yield hundreds of grapefruit-sized lemons practically year-round, and I'll gladly bring you some as a gesture of appreciation" exchange somehow led her to believe her life was in jeopardy. Whatev.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the fruits were ripe for the picking, and made a mental note to stop on my way home and snag a handful. In my scatterbrained craziness (I guess the loquat lady might have had good reason to look at me as though she were seeing the ghost of Dahmer), I finally remembered that it was loquat-pickin' time as I was coming home from the gym. Since I'm a glutton, I didn't stop to consider that climbing a tree in someone else's backyard at roughly ten o'clock in the evening might result in a call to the police or, even worse, in some overzealous "I don't call 9-1-1" gun-totin' cracker putting a few bullets in my ass and asking questions later -- those epiphanies only occurred to me after a friend pointed out that I was lucky neither of those scenarios took place.

I, however, beg to differ, since roughly a minute into the picking, I brushed a spiderweb and felt something crawling on my forearm. I HATE spiders and am absolutely terrified of their eight-legged alien ways. It being a very dark night, my imagination sprung into arachnophobic overdrive, so I jumped off the tree and stamped around the yard like a crazed wino while slapping hordes of imaginary spiders off my body. I eventually collected myself, grabbed my very meager harvest and went home, where I found that about half the fruit I'd picked was not yet ripe (damn you, colour blindness!), and that I'd actually been bitten in the forearm. That's the sixth time I've suffered a spider bite -- what are the fucking odds? I'm a city slicker, for crying out loud! No matter, because the loquats were absolutely delicious, as always.

I'm going in again tomorrow... spideys, beware.

No comments: