Big Jim Loquat

Big Jim Loquat

Loquats are one of the earliest fruits to ripen around here in the Springtime, usually around March and April, just before the first of the Baba Raspberries. Our Loquat tree is still pretty young, just having started its 4th year in the ground, but it was about 2 years old in a 1 gallon can when it came to live here.  Although the tree is still small, we harvested many dozens of loquats this year, which was enough for us to enjoy without getting tired of them.  The tree started bearing fruit two years ago, even though it was hardly 3 feet tall.  When I first got it, it was a tiny little thing, maybe 12 to 18 inches taller than the lip of the nursery pot. Now, when it isn’t heavy with fruit, it is about 4 to 4 1/2 feet tall. For its size, the Big Jim is very productive and the fruit gets so heavy that the branches tend to bend downward as it ripens.  Our chickens thought this was a great feature!  The riper the fruit got, the more they could reach with a well aimed hop.  Note: The seeds aren’t good for chickens, but they are also too big for my little bantams to bother trying to gobble. 

largest loquat variety socal Big Jim flavor tastes like
My daughter, B, showing one of the Big Jim Loquat fruits she picked compared to the size of quarter

The only down side of Loquats is they bruise easily and don’t keep long, especially once removed from stem. As a result, they are rarely found at the store or farmers’ markets.  To be able to enjoy really good loquats, it is necessary to know someone with a tree or grow them yourself.  And if you plan to grow your own, the tricky part is getting a tree with good quality fruit.  Many local loquat trees are seed grown, leaving the size, texture, and flavor of the fruit unknown until years later.  Be aware, some of the loquats sold at nurseries are seed grown, since they are very easy to germinate but pretty hard to graft.  Although some seed grown trees bare delicious fruit, but others are only mediocre to bland. Also, many seedling varieties have a smaller flesh to seed ratio.

Since a fruit tree is a long term time investment before enjoying the first fruits, I chose to plant a proven named variety, rather than take a chance on a seed grown tree.  I sampled the fruit of a few different grafted varieties from other gardeners before settling on ours, “Big Jim.”   I also liked the flavor of Gold Nugget, but the size of the flesh of Big Jim was an added bonus.

“Big Jim” was originally propagated by a gentleman from San Diego, Jim Neitzel.  Big Jim loquat tree has very large, roundish to oblong fruit, ranging in size from 1-1/4 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter, more than double the size of some other varieties.  Most of time each fruit has 2 to 4 smooth brown seeds; the more seeds, the bigger the fruit.  The fruit is pale orange-yellow, with an easy to peel, slightly thick skin. The flavor is pretty sweet, with some acidity, a bit like an apricot, but slightly more complex. If left until they almost wrinkle, they lose most of the acidity and are really sweet.  I try to pick mine before that.

size variation of big jim loquat
Here is a size comparison of Big Jim Loquats. Some are extra large when there are only a couple on a branch and some are average when there are lots on a branch that was not thinned.

Loquats are an ideal Southern California backyard fruit tree.  They don’t mind less than perfect sun exposure, can handle drought, they don’t need chill hours like stone fruits, and they have few to no pest issues.  Our tree only gets partial sun in the warm months and almost no sun in the winter time, being near the north side of our backyard block wall.  It has been very forgiving of less than perfect conditions.  One added benefit, Loquats are an attractive tree year round.

Orange Fleshed Varieties of Loquats:

  • Big Jim
  • Early Red
  • Gold Nugget (Thales, Placentia)
  • McBeth
  • Mogi
  • Mrs. Cooksey
  • Strawberry
  • Tanaka
  • Wolfe

White-fleshed Varieties

  • Advance
  • Benlehr
  • Champagne
  • Herd’s Mammoth
  • Victory (Chatsworth Victory)
  • Vista White

For more info on growing Loquats or more info the other named varieties, visit the Loquat Fruit Facts page at California Rare Fruit Growers.

4 thoughts on “Big Jim Loquat

  1. I would like to purchase a loquat tree of 6′ in height of the Big Jim variety. Could you tell me where to inquire for said purchase? Thank you, John Conti

    1. Hi John,

      I got my Loquat tree from the California Rare Fruit Growers, a non profit club of garden enthusiasts that specialize in exotic fruits. One of their members propagated it from grafting a cutting on to root stock. The Orange County, California branch does an annual fund raiser at the Fullerton Arboretum Green Scene and they might have some available at the sale in April.

      Try asking your local independent nursery first. They might be able to special order a Big Jim loquat for you from their suppliers. Big Jim is more common in California than in other areas because it is a variety that is originally from here. One place to check in San Diego that carries Big Jim is a small nursery called Ong Nursery. They do ship plants and have a website.

      Ong Nursery
      2528 Crandall Drive
      San Diego, CA 92111

      Best wishes.

  2. Sorry, i didn’t mean to cause confusion. Babas produce in Spring on growth from prior year’s canes and late summer to fall on first year canes. If you don’t cut them to the ground in winter, baba berries produce two crops a year like other everbearing raspberry varieties.

I would love to know what you think about this.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.