Make us your home page

Want a taste of something different? The third annual Florida Loquat Festival kicks off in a new location in New Port Richey

NEW PORT RICHEY — Come Saturday morning a small fruit with a fuzzy skin will take the spotlight as the annual Florida Loquat Festival gets underway at a new location.

For a few short hours, it's everything loquats — jams to taste, trees to plant and educational offerings — all in a natural setting.

The festival, founded three years ago to shed light on an under-appreciated, locally grown fruit, had been held at Rose's Market off Main, a homey restaurant alongside the Pithlachascotee River in downtown New Port Richey. When the bistro relocated to Grand Boulevard, organizers found a perfect alternative down river, at Frances Avenue Park.

"There's all sorts of advantages to the park, yet it's not overdone," festival founder and organizer Dell deChant said. "There's amenities for the children. There's a lot of green space."

Those who have never tasted a loquat will have the chance at the festival — whether it be taking a turn at peeling back the skin to get a taste of mildly sweet, fleshy raw fruit, or purchasing a jar of homemade preserves. Those wanting to grow their own can purchase a tree from two local vendors on site.

The event, hosted by Ecology Florida and Friendship Farms & Fare, also has a decidedly educational slant, said deChant, a master instructor in religious studies at the University of South Florida who also chairs the New Port Richey Environmental Committee. In the mix will be the opportunity to attend an educational seminar or hear poetry readings at the "O! Loquat" literary festival within the festival.

There is something to be said of this hardy fruit that originated in southeast China and parts of Japan. The loquat made a roundabout journey through Europe, Africa, South and Central America before landing in Florida in the 1860s.

While greening, thought to be caused by a devastating bacterium, has damaged citrus groves throughout the state, the loquat thrives in local landscapes unattended, deChant points out. Many homeowners don't know anything about those trees in their yard that are presently sprouting pint-sized golden-tinged fruit which, more often than not, are devoured by birds or drop to the ground to rot.

There's an abundance still out there and festival organizers and volunteers have been harvesting loquats from 40 trees owned by 25 residents in the New Port Richey area and beyond.

Sylvia Spencer, 41, of New Port Richey is one of those volunteers. She has enjoyed a more-recent introduction to the fruit she describes as a cross between a pear and an apple.

"I'm a Florida native. I grew up here — graduated from Gulf High — and I never knew of the loquat," she said.

Spencer has been experimenting in her home kitchen with the help of her son, Houston, 13, who tends to the tedious task of de-seeding buckets of fruit.

She created a recipe for loquat chicken glaze and graham-cracker crusted pie filled with a mix of chilled pureed champagne loquats and organic cream cheese and whipped cream. She has also put up several jars of preserves to sell at the festival.

"I love to cook," Spencer said. "I've found that any kind of recipe you can do with another kind of fruit you can pretty much do with a loquat."

Contact Michele Miller at Follow at MicheleMiller52.

>>If you go

Festival of fruit

The third annual Loquat Festival will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Frances Avenue Park, 6156 Louisiana Ave., New Port Richey. Featuring trees, fresh loquats, preserves, pastries and poetry. Educational seminars include: Loquat and Permaculture Applications; Loquats from Farm to Table; The Tree Itself; Loquats and the New World.

Want a taste of something different? The third annual Florida Loquat Festival kicks off in a new location in New Port Richey 03/23/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 23, 2016 5:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sept. 24


    Zac Brown Band: The country, folk and Southern rockers embark on the "Welcome Home" tour in support of the album. 7 p.m., MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre at the Florida State Fairgrounds, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. $27.50-$77.50. (813) 740-2446.

    Handout photo of the Zac Brown Band, performing at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa on 9/24/17. Credit: Shore Fire Media
  2. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for Sept. 23


    Smithsonian Museum Day Live: Museums across the nation partner with the Smithsonian to offer free admission for one day. Among them are Florida Holocaust Museum, Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs.Cracker Country in Tampa, Ringling Museum of Art. Note: Dalí Museum is free for Pinellas County …

    The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg is among the museums participating in the Smithsonian's Museum Day Live, offering free admission. (LANCE ROTHSTEIN   |  Special to the Times)
  3. Tampa Repertory's 'Flying' soars in some places, sputters in others


    TAMPA — Tampa Repertory Theatre has always insisted on putting on plays that mean something. Several shows over the last couple of years have zeroed in on the social and cultural baggage that comes with being female (The Children's Hour, Silent Sky and Grounded come to mind). None of those …

    The Southeastern premiere of Flying, Sheila Cowley's play at Tampa Repertory Theatre about veterans of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots, includes (from left) Holly Marie Weber, Rosemary Orlando, and Becca McCoy. Photo by Megan Lamasney.
  4. After 22 years, it's last call for beloved Ybor venue New World Brewery

    Music & Concerts

    YBOR CITY — Steve Bird spreads his tools across a patio table. He has awnings to unbolt and paraphernalia to unpry, from the busted Bop City neon by the stage to the Simpsons "El Duffo o Muerte" mural in the courtyard. He'll uproot a fountain and dismantle a roof and attempt to keep his bar intact. The …

    Various decor and memorabilia fill the walls and shelves at New World Brewery in Ybor City.
Long time music venue and hangout New World Brewery in Ybor City will be closing it's doors and moving locations. Patrons enjoy one of the last events before New World Brewery changes its location to Busch Blvd in Tampa.  [Photo Luis Santana | Times]