Passion fruit, coconut, pineapple, papaya, and mango are some of the first fruits associated with Brazil. But one of my favorite fruits from home is Nespera, a sweet Brazilian fruit that is small, pastel, orange-colored with a thin skin and juicy flesh. I am referring to nesperas, aka Brazilian Loquat or Japanese plum.
Nespera is commonly displayed at table centerpieces in Brazilian kitchens but not fully explored in our cuisine. Eating the fruit in its raw state is still the prevalent way of enjoying it.
In fact, I can’t remember seeing nespera on a Brazilian menu. But this unappreciated fruit deserves more attention. On my last trip to Brazil, we picked fresh Nespera Sweet Brazilian Fruit from a tree in Teresopolis, right in our backyard. I grabbed one still warm from the sun, so juicy, sweet, crisp, and perfected that it was almost a sanctified act.
The fruit is original from China and Japan and abundant in Brazil, Israel, Spain, and India. The tree’s scientific name is Eriobotrya Japonica, of the Rosacea plant family. Nespera trees can reach up to 26 feet high (8 meters) and have strong branches acting as a solid grip to hold the fruit and protect them from falling during rain and winds. Each little branch can bear 2 to 5 fruits. The dark green leaves are thin, shiny, and long, giving the perfect balance of shade and sun to ripen the fruit.
When compared to other fruit grown in Brazil, its production has not yet become truly relevant, although, things are slowly starting to change, thanks to a region in São Paulo called Mogi Das Cruzes (birthplace of the incredible Neymar, Brazilian soccer player).
In 2020, only ten thousand tons of nesperas were produced, of which 85% came from this region. In 2021, the area had 20 thousand tons, and in 2022 they predicted 30.
Because Nespera Sweet Brazilian Fruit are quite perishable, each fruit must be wrapped in paper (in Brazil, they use newspaper) before being harvested, making the treatment quite labor-intensive. One problem buyers face is the brown spotting the fruit starts to acquire after being harvested. Another problem less obvious is that because nespera is not so explored in our own cuisine, even Brazilians are not entirely familiar with the fruit.
Biting into a nespera, whose season extends from May through October, is an easy task and a pleasurable one. Each fruit contains between 2 to 5 brown pits that you spit while grabbing another to eat. The velvety skin is easy to peel off, but it is so thin and delicious that I don’t even bother.
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