McBeth and Big Jim Loquats [Backyard Orchard Report]

McBeth and Big Jim Loquats [Backyard Orchard Report]

Every year I eagerly await the start of loquat season. Loquat is always the first fruit of Spring around here, even before raspberries and cherries. They ripen after the Owari Satsuma mandarins and Cara Cara Navels have finished for their season. And by this time of year we are usually pretty tired of apples out of cold storage sold at the grocery store. I like my loquats best when they still have a little bit of tanginess to them, but have also turned sweet and juicy. Many folks prefer them when they get so ripe that they are almost wrinkled, and then the fruit tastes more like a peach or slightly mango like. However, by that point the acidity is gone and I find the fruit kind of boring.

What is the best loquat variety
A fruit from my McBeth loquat tree in comparison to a quarter. This is an average sized loquat on the tree this year

I currently have three loquat trees. The oldest one is a variety that is commonly sold in Southern California, Big Jim. I aquired it in 2009 from the OC chapter of CRFG’s booth at the Fullerton Arboretum’s Green Scene, and it started producing in 2011. It has given us a crop every year since, although it seems to be heavier one year and lighter the next. But I almost always have enough to share with friends. It isn’t nearly as tall as many other mature loquat trees around, and I have long suspected it was grafted on to quince rootstock. Its fruits are large, about the size of a small egg, tear drop shaped, and delicious. It normally has 3 to 5 seeds. For a tree its size, it is extremely productive. When fully ripe the flavor of Big Jim is mainly just syrupy apricot like. For the last two years, Big Jim has been ripening about two weeks later than my McBeth loquat tree. It works out perfectly for me.

Big Jim Loquat fruit hanging low
The fruit on Big Jim is causing the branches to bend down under the weigjt

Big Jim loquat gets so heavy with ripening fruit, branches bend over from the weight, as seen in the above picture. The chickens like to peck any fruit that happens to droop far enough down to be within their reach. Although it is safe for chickens to eat loquat fruit, the seeds are toxic. Similar to seeds in apples and pears, loquat seeds and young leaves are slightly poisonous, because they release small amounts of cynide when digested. However, both seeds and leaves have a bitter taste and most chickens with access to lots of other stuff to eat will not eat enough loquat seeds or leaves for it to harm them. My current flock of chickens are bantams, and I really doubt one could even swallow a seed if they tried. Most of the seeds that end up on the ground at my house go on to germinate into little loquat trees, rather than be eaten.

Are loquats poisonous to chickens
Here is a wide view of my McBeth loquat tree with the new puppy and two of my chickens for scale. The McBeth loquat tree is on the right of the Saint Francis statue. The white frizzle bantam cochin is 7 years old and the bantam buff brahma is 6 years old.

McBeth fruit is very similar to Big Jim in appearance and flavor, but I like McBeth just slightly better. But it could be because I haven’t had any loquats since the year before and McBeth fruits are the first variety ready around here. It was purchased at a local nursery in 2015, however, I don’t recall who the wholesale grower was off the top of my head. It is probably on seedling rootstock because at less than half the age of Big Jim, it is already as tall, despite annual agressive pruning on my part to improve the shape and keep it under about 7 or 8 feet tall. The canopy has an upright habit, where Big Jim looks more round.

McBeth Loquat tree with ripening fruit
Here is a recent photo of the McBeth tree, about 7 or 8 feet tall. The photo at the top of the post is fruit from this tree

My third tree is a Gold Nugget that was purchased in 2014 at a nursery in La Habra, but it has never produced fruit for me. I think the location it is planted in might be too shady. Neither of my other two trees are in ideal full sun exposure, but both get about half day sun and produce fine. I am beginning to wonder if maybe the Gold Nugget loquat was actually a seedling of Gold Nugget, and not a grafted Gold Nugget. Seedling loquats typically take 6 to 10 years to reach fruiting age, like the tree across the street at my friend K’s house. Someone started the tree from a seed, but when she realized how long it would take to fruit and how big the tree ultimately would be, she gave it to K. It fruited last year for the first time. It has a smaller rounder fruit with an fair flavor, but I still prefer my two named varieties so far.

I have tasted the Gold Nugget variety at a fellow CRFG member’s house, as well as at a neighbor’s house many years ago, and in my opinion it was also very similar to Big Jim and McBeth in flavor. I do recall Gold Nugget fruit being a bit more rounded. I planted it hoping to extend the loquat season beyond the Big Jim harvest, but

If I was ever asked by someone for a recommendation for the best variety of loquat tree to plant, out of those three named varieties, I would pick McBeth. However, since they are all so similar, I think most folks would be happy with any of the three. I have also tasted many other loquats, mostly seedlings, and a few that have lost their names, but my second favorite named variety is Champange, a white loquat. Since I ran out of room for anymore trees a long time ago, if I come across scionwood of Champagne or Vista White, I plan to try grafting some into my Big Jim tree. I will be leaving the McBeth as a single variety tree. I haven’t found a way to preserve loquats in a way I really enjoy them after the harvest season is over. Any sugesstions?

Besides loquats ripening, there are lots of other things going on in the backyard orchard these days. All of the grapes are leafing out and my earliest grape, Petite Jewel, already has set some berries. It is a red grape with tiny berries that has been ready in mid to late June the last few years. Many of my newest stone fruit grafts are looking good, and I will probably post about them later as to which ones succeeded and which failed. The Unique feijoa has its first few blooms open, but none of the other feijoa varieties on the other side of the yard have open flowers yet. I am really hoping my Apollo branch will fruit this year.

feijoa flowers acca sellowiana "unique"
One of the first few blooms on the “Unique” feijoa

The potted Galusha rosavaya pomegrante is in full flower, but the same variety grafted into on my inground pomegranate tree is a few weeks behind it. My Thornless red raspberries are also starting to flower. We have been picking a few strawberries, but never enough that they make it into the house. The Tropic Gold apricot and grafted branch of Earligold apricot on a different multigrafted apricot tree both set fruit, but I am waiting to see how many stay on all the way to harvest.

newly covered tangerine tree to prevent seedy fruit
A young Weeping Santa Rosa tree is just in front of the newly netted mandarin tree

The citrus trees are blooming like crazy and I had to cover the Owari Satsuma Madarin last weekend to keep the bees from pollinating it and causing it to make seedy fruit. It sets plenty of parthenocarpic fruit without the pollination when its covered and it actually helps to regulate the crop load to keep it from alternate bearing. The bees aren’t missing out on citrus flowers since they still have access to the Santa Theresa Lemon, Bearss Lime, Improved Meyer, Cara Cara Navel, and Tango and Gold Nugget Mandarins.

apple banana
The Dwarf Brazillian Banana tree is almost ready to harvest, maybe a few more weeks

The Dwarf Brazillian banana is looking great, with a cluster of almost ready bananas. They are still green, but the creases are less pronounced, so I know they are close. Last year they were ready in late April. I never thought I wanted to grow bananas until I tasted this variety at a CRFG meeting. They taste like banana candy.

We are almost through with all the kiwifruit from the winter harvest of Vincent Kiwis. We pack them into gallon zip lock bags and keep them in the fridge and use them over about a three month period. It was a really good year here for kiwi in 2019. We had about 80 lbs. of fuzzy kiwi and I got to sample the first fruits of our Hardy Kiwifruit, Rossanna, back in October. Wow, were they sweet! Very different in flavor than the Vincent Fuzzy kiwifruits.

That’s it for my update on the backyard fruit for now. I plan to be back next weekend with more goings on around Hanbury House. April is always one the prettiest months for flowers in our yard and it looks different every year. I am on my way out plant my new tomato plants, Sweet Million and Big Beef. I hope you enjoy your time in the garden.

If you happen to have a favorite way to preserve loquat fruit, please leave a comment and let me know. And if you don’t feel free to leave me some of your thoughts on loquats. Thanks

4 thoughts on “McBeth and Big Jim Loquats [Backyard Orchard Report]

  1. We just purchased a Big Jim loquat. It is small but my question is there are shoots growing near the bottum of the tree and that are below the graft. Should I cut these branches off or not?

    1. Hi Karen, you are correct. Any shoots that are growing below the graft should be removed on the loquat or any fruit trees. The fruit that develops in the years to come on the shoots won’t be as good as the grafted variety. I hope you enjoy your Big Jim Loquat tree!

  2. Hello. Do you remember how long it took your fuzzy kiwi to produce fruit?


    1. Yes, and I am sorry to tell you it took a long time. The Vincent female produced its first flowers at 4 years old. The male didn’t produce any flowers until it was seven, but that year it only had two flowers. As a result, I picked only a few fruits it first year fruiting in year seven. Every year since it has gotten better.

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