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Meddling with Medlars

A couple of years ago we decided to plant a medlar tree in the garden. The main reason for planting it was for ornamental value. All the information said that it had large glossy leaves, attractive white flowers, good autumn colour and unusual shaped fruits so it sounded like a good choice. I read somewhere that it grows to 20’ in height but hopefully some judicious pruning can keep it to a more modest proportion.

Last year the tree remained in a pot and only produced one flower. It is now planted into the garden and this year it produced five flowers. Apparently, due to the flowers appearing after most late frosts, it is usual for every flower to develop into a fruit and this was certainly true as we now have five fruits. The flowers are self fertile and it also apparently can develop fruits even if the flower isn’t pollinated – how does that work then? The fruits are a curious shape resembling really large rose hips. They are a yellowish brown colour a bit like a russet apple.

We are not really at all sure what to expect from the fruits. Once taken from the tree the fruits have to be allowed to ‘blet’ which apparently means that they must be left to decay and go soft. During this process sugars are supposedly produced and acidity diminishes. Also the fruit softens. Having picked our five fruits we now have to place them cool room calyx end down until they have ‘bletted’. This is supposed to take between two weeks to a month. If and when our medlars have bletted we then will have to decide how to eat them. The fruit can be eaten raw or cooked but with only five fruits I guess cooking is out of the question. The taste is said to be reminiscent of caramel but we will have to get back to you on that.

Each fruit should contain five large seeds so don’t anyone tell Joe, our plot neighbour, as he will be begging a few for his pip collection and we are likely to eventually have a forest of medlars growing on his plot.

One slight problem is that if we happen to have picked our medlars too soon they will just shrivel and dry up so we may not be tasting anything this year. Unfortunately we read that latest bit of information after we had picked them.

One slight problem is that if we happen to have picked our medlars too soon they will just shrivel and dry up so we may not be tasting anything this year. Unfortunately we read that latest bit of information after we had picked them.

Medlars date back to the middle ages when they were very popular. I just wonder why they lost favour – maybe when we have tasted one we may find out! One of the French nicknames for the fruits 'cul de chien' which roughly translates as 'dog’s bottom' which is slightly worrying!

Update 12 April 2009

Today I was asked what happened with regard to the medlars picked last year. I have to admit – not much. I’m not sure whether we picked them too soon or whether they were small due to it being the tree’s first year but in short there wasn’t enough fruit to really have a good taste and decide what we thought of them. We really bought the tree for its decorative qualities so any fruit especially if it proves palatable will be a bonus.

Update 18 May 2009

The medlar is flowering again - more flowers than last year so maybe we will get more fruits so we can make up our minds about whether we like the taste or not!

Update October 2009

We harvested twice as many medlars this year - ten. They were, however noticeably larger than last year's fruits. This represented a 100% pollination rate as every flower formed a fruit.

The fruit had started to fall from the tree and so I assumed that the time was right for picking.

The fruits have now been set out to blet. Browsing the Internet it states that the fruit should be laid out on absorbent material such as straw but this seemed over the top for just ten fruits and so I have used pieces of kitchen towel.

We now eagerly wait to see what happens!

10 November 2009

Most of the medlars have now darkened in colour and have softened. Apparently this means that they have bletted so now we have to decide to eat them. Seems strange to eat rotten fruit.

We didn't really fancy eating them raw as they didn't look very appetising - what rotted fruit would? After careful consideration and much browsing of the Internet we decided to make medlar and apple jelly. We added a couple of our Peasgood Nonsuch apples from storage to our medlars and used a recipe from the River Cottage website as a guide.

The jelly has a very firm set. We have spread it on plain scones and it is really tasty but I'm really not sure how I would describe it.

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