One of the most unrecognised fruits on a Spanish tree, and the one which always seems to raise the question ‘what is that?’ is the wonderful Nispero. This delightful, underrated little gem, known in English as ‘the Loquat’, is a truly versatile fruit. It is eaten as a fresh fruit and goes well with other fruits in fruit salads. They are sweetest when soft and orange and commonly used to make jelly, jam and even chutney,or can be poached in light syrup.  Firmer or slightly immature fruits are best for making pies or tarts. Wine can also be made from this fruit. Nispero fruit is usually yellow or orange in colour and grows on a tree that has bright and fragrant white flowers. The skin can be eaten but the best bit is inside, the flesh. The Nispero contains large seeds that are toxic however, and should not be eaten.

The fruit was introduced into Spain approximately two thousand years ago by sailors arriving in ports of the Valencia region, however it wasn’t until the 19th century that the loquat/nispero began to be really cultivated in Spain and other places around the Mediterranean. They are one of the first fruits to be harvested after winter here in Southern Spain and grow in profusion. Definitely worth keeping an eye out for, if not for the taste then the benefits listed below should surely entice.

 Loquats/Nisperos contain few calories; just 47 calories per 100 g. however they are extremely rich in insoluble dietary fiber, pectin. A function of Pectin is to hold back any moisture inside the colon, therefore it acts as bulk laxative, helping to protect the colon mucous membrane by shortening the exposure time to toxic substances whilst binding to cancer-causing chemicals in the colon.

Loquat/Nispero fruit provides a great source of vitamin-A (about 1528 IU or 51% of daily recommended levels per 100g), and also contains phenolic flavonoid antioxidants such as, neo-chlorogenic acid, chlorogenic acid, , feruloylquinic acid, protocatechuic acid, hydroxybenzoic acid, coumaric acids, epicatechin and ferulic acid. The ripe fruits contain more concentration of chlorogenic acid.

Pectin can reduce blood cholesterol levels by reducing its re-absorption in the colon through binding bile acids, which results in its excretion from the body.

The fruit provides a very good source of copper, iron, manganese, calcium and many other minerals. Copper is needed for the production of red blood cells. Iron is necessary for as a cofactor in cellular oxidation, and also in red blood cell formation. The body uses Manganese as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.

 An important component of cell and body fluids is Potassium, helping to control heart rate and blood pressure.

So with qualities like that it might be worth stopping and grabbing a handful of the versatile and healthy Nispero!

Image credit: Keith Williamson.