When more than half of the trees surrounding you produce an abundance of white and pink flowers in Spring, it is striking when one does not. The medlar tree (Mespilus germanica) may not be characterized by the number of blossoms that pour from its branches, but with their large individual blooms against long glossy leaves; they are truly a sight to behold.
We know why it's such a rare fruit; the tree has a serious image problem. First of all, the fruit is tomato-sized and lime green before ripening to golden brown colour. It also needs to soften up before you can eat them, which many people say is "rotting".
Secondly, you might read that it is an "acquired taste"... the list goes on. Notably, the fruit is also given the unattractive name "cul de Chien" in French, which is the rear end of a dog, which nobody is going to find appetising.
Maybe it's the look of the fruit that gives it the name, maybe.. okay, we can see the resemblance, however, it certainly gets a hard time.
Why You Should Grow a Medlar Tree
You may think it is the idea that they have to soften the fruit which is an "acquired taste," but a medlar becomes fit for consumption after being gluttonized - turning its tartness into sugars. The flesh becomes creamy and brown, giving you a processed fruit straight from the tree!
The tree is self-fertile, so only one is needed and it has a minimal disease or pest outbreaks. In the first few years of its life, you remove any dead or diseased branches that threaten to take up too much space because regular pruning isn't necessary.
The medlar tree can be grown as either a bush on a dwarfing rootstock or as a tree. At Grimthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire, UK they have both topiarised and trimmed the trees to shape them.
Where to Grow a Medlar Tree
Medlars are not fussy plants and will do well in a wide variety of soil types if their roots are kept moist. They need to be watered during dry spells, especially during their first 3-4 years of life. Strong winds can damage flowers, so it's best to keep them from exposure. They will tolerate partial shade. Once they are established, they are adaptable to most conditions.
The tree will blossom in Spring, so make sure it is planted away from other trees that can be damaged by the honeybees which gather around the flowers.
Harvesting Medlar Fruit
Pick fruits in late October or November while they are still firmer and store them standing upright on fresh sand or paper. Store somewhere cool and airy, without exposure to light to prevent premature ripening. It's a good idea to soak the stalks in a strong salt solution once a week or three weeks depending on how long you want it to blanch. When done, the fruit will have bletted and be ready for eating. Browned and wrinkled skin, which is slightly soft to the touch, tells you that the fruit is ready. Eat it right away for maximum tang and citrus flavour.
How to Eat Medlar Fruit
Although eating a medlar can be difficult due to its seeds and core, my favourite way to eat them is by scooping the flesh right out of the fruit with a teaspoon. The juice also makes an enjoyable dessert or accompaniment to wine, port, or cheese. I find that mixing the pulp in with cream and sugar takes away from their flavour and prefer adding it to yoghurt or something a little milder to really get the most out of them.
Medlar fruit is most often turned into jelly or cheese, which can be hard to identify once made. They can also be used in alcoholic drinks or pickled with vinegar and spices.
You might not have eaten a medlar before due to their dull exterior and weird name, however, once you get over the image they really are great! I just hope this article changed your opinion on them...
No matter how you look at them (or what you call them), Medlars are a true British delicacy.
What does medlar fruit taste like?
When fully ripe the medlar is very squishy and very sweet. Its taste resembles that of an over-ripe date, complex and sugary. Some say it has a flavour like over-ripe apples or apple sauce with a hint of acidity balancing out the sweetness.
Is a medlar an apple?
Medlars are similar in appearance to apples and rosehips, but they are larger and more tart which makes them excellent for storing. ... Shedding medlars is a slow process due to their hardiness. Once the woody skins have softened, they're mellow enough for harvesting.