Many of us have indulged in a níspero or two at one time or another. The popular fruit is a staple in places like the Dominican Republic, Central America, Florida and California.

All places have one particular aspect in common — they host a large Latino population.

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However, because the fruit literally grows on trees everywhere, we may take for granted its complex and fascinating origins.

We call them nísperos, but their origins are in Asia

Called Japanese loquats, the fruit first appeared in China thousands of years ago. Then, it made its way worldwide thanks to explorers, visitors, and travelers. Japanese people visiting China more than a millennium ago took the fruit back with them.

Then, Spanish explorers brought it to Europe to adapt it in their climate.

However, European explorers took the loquat from Spain to the Mediterranean and what is now the United States, allowing it to find roots in warmer climates where it continues to thrive today. By the end of the 19th century, loquats grew in agreeable climates on nearly every continent.

Many parts of Latin America are perfect for growing them

Because this tropical fruit thrives in a warm, humid environment, certain parts of Latin America and places in the US have no problem growing it in droves. The fruit is popular throughout the Caribbean, Central America and states like Florida and California.

It’s also a sweet and versatile snack, with various uses outside of eating straight from the tree. You’ll find níspero in drinks, jams, juices and smoothies. It even has medicinal properties and can help treat nausea and stomachaches.

The Latin American loquat differs from ones grown in other parts of the world

The níspero in Latin America differs from the loquats grown in China, Australia and Europe. The fruit adapts to the climate in which it lives and plenty of loquats taste and look different from the traditional Japanese variation.

For instance, Spain has two main types of nísperos: the Argelino and the Tanaka. The former is much sweeter and often eaten right off the branch. The latter, however, is a bit more tart and a popular ingredient in baked goods like pies and cakes.

The fruit develops depending on its climate, so the version most of us eat is actually a tropical fruit called Manilkara huberi. The Latin American loquat is particularly versatile because it’s not just a popular and tasty fruit. It also has an edible skin similar to latex or rubber, which was the basis for chewing gum.

Even within the United States, different versions of loquats grow depending on the climate, so it might be time to take a níspero-themed cross-country road trip.