By Matthew Wilcox
Just north of the City of Brooksville, Florida, off of Highway 98, sits a small tree farm that is owned and operated by Steve McCortney. Mr. McCortney grows a wide variety of shrubs and trees for local and regional sale. Most of all, Steve has several dozen loquat trees that he and his girlfriend, Joan Marie Procida, grow for sale as well as for the fruit they produce.
“Loquats are a small fruit, kind of peach shaped, but much smaller, smaller than golf ball,” said McCortney. “They are a cross between a peach and an apricot. They have a fuzzy skin like a peach and you can make a variety of different things such as jams, ice creams, pies, and many other things,” added McCortney while strolling along one of his many rows of Loquat trees.
McCortney grows loquat trees not just for personal enjoyment and profit, but also for You Pick occasions. “We’re doing a You Pick Loquat this year, and we’re going to let people out to pick fruit by the pound that way they can take it home and enjoy it for themselves,” added McCortney.
Most of McCortney’s sales come from individuals and developers wishing to landscape their properties with some of central Florida’s fruit-baring treasures. Loquats are not unique to Florida having originated in East Asia and spread around the globe. They are found in Afghanistan, Australia, India, Iraq, Great Britain, and of course, the U.S.A. Florida is not alone in the U.S. for having loquats. They are also found in Texas, Georgia, Hawaii, and other southern and southwestern states. Loquats thrive in these states because the fruit requires a temperate climate in which the temperature does not fall below 30 degrees – although the trees themselves can take much colder temperatures.
“Believe it or not the Loquat leaves have medicinal purposes. I can’t even think of all the benefits they offer; there’s a load of benefits,” said McCortney. “There is a list of medical benefits for such issues as diabetes, high blood pressure and other health risks,” he continued.
McCortney will be attending the Loquat festival in downtown New Port Richey on Saturday, April 5, 2015 at the Market Off Main, 6241 Lincoln St. Speaking of the festival, McCortney observed, “this festival is to make people aware of the Loquats and I’m thinking we’re going to sell more trees there than we have in a while.”
Matthew Wilcox is an independent journalist and director of Our Florida TV.