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A forgotten medieval fruit with a vulgar name (bbc.com)
277 points by ranit 4 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 151 comments

Funnily enough I stumbled upon such a tree while out for a walk in Surrey (UK) last November. Amazed to see a tree laden with fruit in winter, I loaded my rucksack thinking they were some kind of strange quince or something. It was only after a bit of internet research I discovered they were this weird medieval fruit called a Medlar. Out of curiosity I duly ‘bletted’ them and 4 or so weeks later turned them in to medlar-crumble slice. Would certainly agree they taste “like over-ripe dates mingled with lemons”. A lot of faff, but very delicious!

One of my favourite DH Lawrence poems is about these [0]! I’ve always wanted to taste one since I first read it. Perhaps as someone who has tasted them you’ll appreciate it.

  I love you, rotten, 
  Delicious rottenness.

  I love to suck you out from your skins
  So brown and soft and coming suave,
  So morbid, as the Italians say.
The rest of it is in the link.

[0] https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/148468/medlars-and-so...

"morbido" in italian means soft. which is strange, now that I think about it

I had a look, in English and Italian they both come from the Latin for “diseased”

I live in Surrey, UK too. Where was it you saw the tree? I would like to go see one!

I'm thinking of buying some Medlar jam too because I'm curious about it now.

Wow, what a great article! And it links to one of my favorite botany papers every written: "The Medlar (Mespilus germanica, Rosaceae) from Antiquity to Obscurity" by John R. Baird and John W. Thieret, Economic Botany Vol. 43, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1989), pp. 328-372 (45 pages)



I read this by chance when it came out, and for a long while couldn't figure out whether it was a parody or a real scientific article. The whole story seemed so vastly improbable: a vulgar fruit central to Shakespeare that we've mostly forgotten about today, unable to be eaten until it's been rotted in sawdust for a few months --- pull the other one! Anyway, if the BBC article whets your interest in the medlar, you should definitely check out the full article. It's a gem.

To be clear the ‘bletting’ process isn’t really rotting. There isn’t bacterial or fungal decomposition. Instead it is enzymes within the fruit which slowly react with and transform it. This isn’t wholly dissimilar from normal fruit ripening which can happen after the fruit has been picked.

My favourite line from the article: "The process is known as "bletting", a word made-up by a botanist who noticed there wasn't one in 1839."

How is this different from ripening? Many commercial fruits are picked unripe, then during transportation (it takes bananas up to two weeks to travel from South America to Europe) they ripen off ready for sale.

Maybe I'm getting it wrong, but it sounds like this doesn't happen on the plant if you just let it be, whereas ripening does? (we just pick stuff unripe to gain transportation time)

There are at least a few classes of fruit in terms of ripening.

* Non-climacteric fruits will only ripen on the plant. Strawberries are like this. They can turn more red after picking, but it's deceptive. They don't actually get sweeter.

* Most climacteric fruits will ripen either on or off the plant. I think bananas and apples are like this.

* Some climacteric fruits will only ripen after picking. Avocados are like this for sure. You have to wait until it's large enough to pick it (or it will never ripen) and wait a week or two after picking to eat it. Leaving it on the fruit for an extra week or two is no substitute for waiting after picking. There are probably other such fruits.

Pears, too, only ripen properly several days off the tree.

Took me too many years to discover this with my pear tree in the back yard.

Maybe depends on the variety? Used to eat pears straight from the tree as a kid and they were sweet enough.

I believe it's most/all varieties. See e.g. https://usapears.org/pear-ripening-and-handling

However, I think many people are used to the taste of unripe pear - it's sweet enough, and quite crisp, and some people prefer them that way. As it sits on the counter, though, it becomes softer and sweeter over time.

I was very surprised at the office that all the pears would be eaten up each week before they ripened. I mean sure it's a matter of taste, but I used to think everyone let them soften. The obvious solution was to grab them early and hoard them in secret until they were ripe.

It depends a lot, yes.

There are two class of European pears classified by flesh texture: The 'beurre' type and the 'water' type. The beurre are very hard and dry first but then mature to a fine and almost fatty texture that melts in the mouth. Some can store well in cave for several months. The water pear type is juicy and much softer in all stages and is unsuitable to store more than a few weeks in summer.

You pick a ripe Medlar and you pack in in sawdust - it undergoes something that is closer to decomposition than ripening (but isn't).

I suspect this is relatively new technology and the bananas have been engineered for that purpose in the 20th century.

> a word made-up by a botanist who noticed there wasn't one

Aren't ALL words made up?

Probably not. Certainly the vast majority were not deliberately made up within recorded history.

Yes, it’s not rotting, just ripening, the same as the process (astringent) persimmons. Describing it as “rotten” is being a little overly dramatic.

I think that bletting involves frost and defrost also. I could be wrong. The trick does not work so well in Persimmon.

American Persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) actually respond well to a few freeze-thaw cycles. Despite myth, they don't require it for ripening, but they aren't hurt by it they way that Japanese kaki are.

Or dry aging beef.

Growing up in south of france, we had a few of theses tree ("Néflier") scattered around the village. I really loved the fruits as a kid, it was a true delicacy. We had to wait until the first freeze in december, and pick them off the ground after bletting. they are really sweet, with a touch of alcool, and one of the few fruit you can find in the wild during the winter.

Now the title is a little bit misleading, they fell out of favor, and not widely available commercially, but definetly not forgotten.

I live in the South-east, and Néfles/Medlars start appearing now actually, tend to be ready in May, when they start turning from yellow to orange. In the summer they're all gone, maybe we're speaking about different species, I think here those Néfliers are 'Japan Medlars', so are not in the same cycle

Persimmons are ready between October and December. Agrums (like mandarines, clementines) from January to March.Figs in summer

Basically you can have something to pick all year long, if people can stop replacing trees by concrete

Edit: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26612839 said it all, what I'm talking about are loquats, not medlars, we still call them "néfliers" though

When I was still living in the East Bay, loquats were a favourite of mine!

They're planted all over the place, but it doesn't seem that people eat the fruit anymore. Easy to pick your fill when they're ripe. They aren't the best eating, but not half bad.

The post on Arstechnica forum is related to Loquat trees, which is different from Medlars.

Yes. 11235813213455 was thinking of loquats, not medlars, so I added on to that.

Still common in Italy, one if my favorites! I believe they're quite common in Japan as well.

I grew up in Southern California, I remember eating them lots as a kid.

Do the fruits taste similar?

Not really. At least, if you hadn't been told in advance that the loquat was also called the "Japanese medlar", you probably wouldn't think they had anything more in common than a pear and a plum, or an apple and an apricot.

Loquats have a mild citrus-apricot flavor and a texture close to a somewhat meaty plum or cherry. When immature, they are very tart; when overripe, they are insipid; when just right, they can be great.

Medlar are only eaten when "bletted", which means that they've become browned and spoonably soft. They taste of overripe spiced stewed apple/pear/quince, although no spice has been added. When just right, they are "interesting".

Not. Loquat is a summer fruit that tastes tropical, like pineaple, acidic, juicy and refreshing. Texture similar to peach. Medlar is a winter fruit said to have the texture and flavor of a good apple cream.

Both trees are relatively similar in shape, but very different also in character. Lets say that Loquat "is a Magnolia" and Medlar "is an oak".

Yeah, the angle is strange. AFAIK people never stopped using medlar, at least in France. I remember my grandmother making pies, cakes, and jam with it when I was a kid. It might not be a very popular fruit (it’s difficult to sell it when it’s edible, and you’d have to convince people to eat what the’ drake for rotten fruit), but “forgotten” is a bit much.

To eat what they’d take* No idea what the spell checker was up to...

In Morocco where I grew up, they are quite popular. But we don't wait for them to be rotten before we eat them. So maybe it's a different variety (In moroccan dialect they are called "Mezah")

I agree, while not the most popular fruit, these can still be found in city parks and people's gardens, I believe I've also seen them in stores.

Btw it's "mišpule" in Czech.

The same process takes place with astringent persimmons. Persimmons are even weirder because they have four types: pollination constant non-astringent (PCNA), pollination variant non-astringent (PVNA), pollination constant astringent (PCA), pollination variant astringent (PVA).

That means that some (very tasty) types of persimmon can be astringent or sweet when hard depending on whether they were pollinated, which is nearly impossible to tell just by looking at the fruit. The most well known categories of persimmons, at least in the US -- Fuyu types (PCNA) and Hachiya (PCA) -- are not pollination variant.

That explains a lot. I only buy fuyu persimmons now, because when I have tried the other kinds, they have been inedible - very astringent.

Do people do anything with the astringent types? Do they get better if I wait?

You have to wait until they are extremely soft -- then they'll be very very sweet (and juicy). I tend to only buy and grow non-astringent persimmons because it's a hassle.

People also dry them -- there's a whole process for this (one link among many):


What cultivars would you recommend? I planted a szukis, john rick, and mohler this past year. Not sure what else I should be looking into.

I would like to know your with those varieties that are almost unknown in Europe.

Hatchiya is the standard one in astringent types. 'Rojo brillante' is also very good. Saijo and Chocolate are also very famous but not so easy to find. All named varieties are astringent.

Among the less common ones Izu and Mikatani Gosho are good.

> Do people do anything with the astringent types?

Yes, we do. Both have their own merits, but astringent types have a couple of serious advantages over non astringent, 1) they store much more sugar than the fuju types and 2) are untouched by insects or birds until ripe.

Really versatile fruit and very good if you know how to use it. Astringent types can be treated industrially to became the same as non astringent ones. Kaki is at least three totally different fruits in one.

All I know is the flatter (beefeater tomato shape) don’t need to ripen (soften before eating), the heart-shaped ones are fussy and you need to let them get soft before eating. I prefer the former type.

I know of a few persimmon trees along my running route in Maryland -- I'm not sure what kind, but they produce much smaller persimmons than I see in the store.

I occasionally taste them throughout fall and early winter. They seem to go from "deeply unpleasant" to "mildly unpleasant" to "I suppose I could make jam out of these if I added a lot of sugar".

The article says the medlar is "musmula" in Persian. Maybe, but if you're Iranian, you'll more likely know it as "marmala". Reading this, this sounds oddly like "marmalade", which according to Wikipedia, comes from the Portuguese. But unlike the English version of marmalade, which is made from citrus, the original Portuguese is made from quince, an Asian fruit. My guess is this was actually initially made from marmala, and quince as only a variant. What a wonderful etymological chase through the name of a fruit.

That both fruits are in the Malinae subtribe and both typically need bletted before they're edible lends credence to this hypothesis.

> if you're Iranian, you'll more likely know it as "marmala"

Are you sure? It looks like azgil (ازگیل).

Indeed you seem to be right, and now I'm not so sure about my claim.

What I learned from following around the ازگیل page is even more interesting. Those pages say it's known as "coonoos" in gilan, and "kenes", "kendes", or "kaandes" in mazandaran. I can't help but hear "quince" in these. Which happens to be in the same family.

The fact that jars of marmalade are usually labeled "orange marmalade" is a hint that it used to be made from something else, just like tomato ketchup was not always made with tomatoes. (Ketchup used to be a kind of fish sauce from Southeast Asia.)

In Kosovo we call them “mushmulla”, they are quite common. As a kid used to eat a lot and I preferred them in their “unrotten” form since they were freely growing in the hills surrounding my town.

Oh man, i was wondering what this mysterious fruit was until I saw its mushmulla they are talking about. It's pretty common here in Kosovo and it can be found accross supermarkets.

the italian word is "nespola" and the latin is "mespilus", so probably there's some shared indo-european root with "musmula".

In Croatian it is mušmula. My late grandfather would give them to us kids, and I never liked it.

Looks like Albanian muç-molla

They are very tasty, and can be eaten like a mini apple or pear. They taste like a combination between a pear and an apple. I used to have one in my home/garden.

...it is the baby of the rose family. This little tree produces small fruits in brown to rust color.

These fruits are similar to those of the wild rose, but larger in size.


Your link isn't working for me, but this video confirms that muç-molla is indeed the same fruit as medlar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpgCdAXb-Xo

From the original article

> It's still widely grown in Iran, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Turkey, where it's sold in markets as musmula.

Yup, that's the same word. Thanks, Ottomans.

The word is actually of Greek origin. Who spread it is difficult to tell.

Are you sure? The word sounds distinctly Turkish to my Greek ears [1].

It's funny but there's long-standing confusion between me and a friend regarding what a "musmulo" (singular) is. I know by that name a small, round, orange-yellow fruit with soft, tangy flesh and large-ish but very smooth stones - known in English as a loquat. I'm from Athens, but my friend who is from Corfu knows two things as musmula: the loquat and the medlar fruit.

I notice also in sister threads that there is some linguistic confusion about medlars and loquats in other places, e.g. two French users discuss whether "néflier" is the loquat or the medlar fruit, in French.

This year I was at my Corfiot friend's house in winter and they have medlar trees in their garden, so I had the opportunity to watch the bletting process in action, as it were. Basically my friend and my friend's dad picked a bunch of medlar fruit and put them in wicker baskets wrapped in newspaper. Then a few weeks later they ate some. To be honest, I didn't try them, because they looked and smelled ... rotten? I guess? My friend ate a few but some had actually gone bad and had to be chucked out. Strange fruit, really.


[1] All the rest of me is Greek also.

There are Modern Greek words that came into Greek from Turkish, but where the Turkish word comes from an Indo-European root (though it's not always clear if that is Greek or Persian).

Examples include karpouzi (watermelon, from Turkish karpuz, from either Persian xarbuz, "melon", or Greek karpos, "fruit").

Mespilon is the original Greek name, which made its way to Latin too. It might be sounding alien to you because of the sound changes.

I had a brief vision of one of those painted ancient Greek statues where they had to put the broken ears back on.

That is the Turkish name of the medlar.

This name is used in many Balkanic countries.

In Turkish, "Musmula suratli" = "Medlar faced" is a common and funny expression to describe someone with an ugly / grumpy /sour face.

thanks, fixed it

These are... nespole. I have a tree in my garden and we, in Italy, commonly eat them. A bit disappointed after the intriguing opening of the article.


I think you are confusing the "loquat" with the "medlar". The loquat is still relatively common, doesn't have a gaping open end, is yellow to orange, and can be eaten out of hand. The medlar is darker in color, has a very open calyx, and is practically inedible direct from the tree. The names are sometimes confused, with the loquat sometimes called a "Japanese medlar". Anyway, did yours possibly match this one instead: http://italywithgusto.com/praise-to-the-italian-loquat-fruit...?

I don't think so: it's open ended indeed, and the wikipedia article I linked matches the latin name

You are right that depending on where you are, it could be either. The English language Wikipedia article for 'loquat'[1] suggests that Southern Italy uses 'nespolo' for 'loquat', while Northern uses it for 'medlar'. But if it's tasty and light orange colored when you eat it ripe directly from the tree, it's definitely a loquat. While if it's at all appealing after it's been stored for a few months and turned brown and mushy, it's a medlar.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loquat

I also have one in my garden. In German it is called "Mispel". I wouldn't call it forgotten although I have to attest that probably only history or plant nerds know of it.

As we grow a lot of historic varieties of vegetables a "Mispel" was not so unusual for us.

And living in a region where traditionally all hard liquor is from trees, the Mispel one happens to be my unquestioned favorite, after a good meal at the pub. I'd describe the tiny fruit aroma hint that is usual with fruit liquor as a touch of marzipan that works much better than I'd expect upon hearing this description (I'd definitely not be eager to try something advertised as marzipan liquor).

Perhaps it's no coincidence that the article doesn't mention Germany at all, it might ruin the "forgotten" hook. (no you can't walk into a German supermarket and walk out with a bag full of Mispels, it's not that un-forgotten)

Try in a Turkish shop (in Germany I mean), you'll find them for sure.

Could deserve a try. How is the recipe?

Asking the wrong person, I only know how to read the chalkboard that lists the "fruits" available.

This is the supplier, basically the "industry giant" amongst the traditional distillers of the region (most others aren't full time occupations I think): https://www.destillerie-haas.com/epages/61827331.mobile/de_D...

Yeah. Naspolya. We have them in Hungary, too, although they have become less and less common over the years.

Pretty common in France too: the tree is néflier, the fruit is nèfle. Disappointed too as I could find this with a simple Wikipedia search...

They're not particularly rare in England (although rarely eaten). You see them a lot in stately homes. And although I don't live in one of those, I have one in my back garden.

I had a large tree in the garden of my previous house. I used to make significant quantities of medlar jelly every year and give the jars away to family and friends. The house was 400 years old, but the tree was significantly younger.

I also have a "nespolo" tree. But honestly I don't know if it's a european or a japonica variant

If the tree keeps its dark green leaves in winter is japonica. If naked in winter and taking a good pinkish yellow color in fall, european.

Oval, orange, edible in summer? Japonica. Round, brown, requires frost - European.

Aye, they're called "nespoles" in Corfu also and it's probably an Italian influence.

Yeah, I've eaten these. Never knew they were "rare".

Nísperos, in Spain.

Weird Fruit Explorer just did an episode on these if you want to see what they're like: https://youtu.be/IKZsMNfRiRE

The whole channel is fascinating. Probably my favorite niche YouTube channel. I had no idea just how many edible fruits are out there and how strange many of them are. Makes me want to quit my job and travel around the world finding thousands of weird fruits to eat.

I was actually surprised by Dragon Fruit, recently. Not sure if you had it before. But the plant, is a cactus like vine. I went into a park in Hawaii. And saw it strangling a huge tree. No idea that it could grow like that.

I knew it would be the medlar before i clicked! Perhaps i spend too much time reading about rude fruit.

Anyway, it's a great little fruit, makes superb jelly and cheese (ie jelly with pulp, like a very thick jam). Somewhere between plum and date in flavour, perhaps.

I have a jar of my father's medlar cheese in the fridge, might go and pop a bit on some cheese ...

All these quotes form Jane Steward and they never link to her website. It's nice, makes the fruit look a bit more appetizing: https://eastgatelarder.co.uk/

I always enjoyed that bit of Romeo and Juliet in high school...

  If love be blind, love cannot hit the mark.
  Now will he sit under a medlar tree
  And wish his mistress were that kind of fruit
  As maids call medlars when they laugh alone.—
  O Romeo, that she were! Oh, that she were
  An open arse, and thou a poperin pear.

It's good to remember that some of Shakespeare is just a more poetic version of texting a peach emoji and eggplant emoji.

A few months ago I had a jar of medlar jelly shipped over from the UK via Amazon. It was not cheap but very tasty; the flavor reminded me a bit of quince jelly, another pretty rare item in the US. I'd like to have it again sometime, maybe for a special occasion.

The rest of my medieval foods bucket list includes purslane and sorrel. It looks like I'll have to grow both of them from seeds as I have no hope of buying them from a store anytime soon.

Oh, you reminded me of quince jam. That used to be my favorite. I haven't seen any for over a decade, quince trees used to be common in my home country, but they fell out of favour for some reason and very few people grow them anymore.

Quince jam and quince juice were great.

Quince are naturally very high in pectin, so they were often grown to be added to other fruit as a thickener in jams. These days people just buy commercially produced pectin, or more likely, don't make jam at all.

I've seen it at upscale grocery stores, usually next to the fancy cheese section.

Angelica's candied stems are probably among the best candidates for the "once popular but now forgotten" list.

In this case there are good reasons to not consume it. Very similar to poisonous species for the untrained eye.

I haven't had sorrel in ages, but it's amazing. Intensely sharp, lemony flavour. A classic thing to do is to stuff it inside a mackerel and grill it.

Depending where you are, these may well already be growing wild or as weeds, they’re distributed pretty widely especially where euro crops are grown. Look out for nettle as well, it’s not bad at all.

Purslane, at least, is extremely easy to grow. It can actually become a weed in some circumstances.

Quite tasty. I haven't grown it for a few years, but it's on my seed list now. Thanks for the reminder!

sorrel is not terribly exciting. I think it should grow from seed easily.

The equivlent in North America (in terms of being a once popular, now nearly forgotten fruit) is the Pawpaw: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asimina_triloba

Hmm. Some of us have heard of it via the original Disney animated Jungle Book, where it cameos in the song "Bear Necessities" (or is that "Bare Necessities?" Dual meaning and all that, forget which one is the canonical title.) Anyway, Phil Harris sings:

"Now when you pick a pawpaw / or a prickly pear / and if you prick a raw paw / well then next time, beware! Don't pick a prickly pear by the paw / when you pick a pear, try to use the claw. But you don't need to use the paw / when you pick a pear from a big pawpaw. Have I given you a clue?"

This may have placed me under the erroneous impression it was a tropical fruit.

There are (at least) three fruit known as the pawpaw:

1. Asimina (North American pawpaw)

2. Vasconcellea pubescens (Mountain pawpaw, South America)

3. Carica papaya (Papaya, Africa and Asia)

Indeed. When I see "paw-paw," the first thing I think of is papaya which is indeed a tropical fruit.

But I think the song makes it clear that’s not the pawpaw in question, right?

I believe papaya is "rude" itself for other reasons (Spanish slang connotations)

To avoid confusion, the word "pawpaw" means very different things in different parts of the English-speaking world.

Outside of North America, "pawpaw" usually means what Americans call papaya -- and in some countries (like New Zealand) both "papaya" and "pawpaw" are used to refer to different varieties of what Americans call papayas.


One issue with Pawpaw is that some varieties have high levels of acetogenins:



There are some low annonacin varieties: Sunflower, Wabash, Potomac, Zimmerman, and Wells.

Its amazing that they can grow so far north. Its like tropical fruit plant that survived the ice age.

My wife grew up in Belgium and has often mentioned medlar as a wonderful and absurd delicacy. I never had it and she seemed to find it strange that I didn't know of it. A few days ago she excitedly sent me this article. Yesterday we found out her parents have just planted medlar in their garden.

In Dutch there's an expression 'zo rot als een mispel' (as rotten as a medlar). These days this means 'rotten to the core', so I was surprised to learn it originated from a fruit that supposedly tastes wonderful in this state. Although from the Dutch Wikipedia I gather it's more fermenting than rotting that's involved.

I was surprised to see that Google Photos is pretty good at searching for medlar photos I've taken. I knew I'd seen one recently(ish) but couldn't think how I'd figure out where.

So I did a search and it found two sets of photos:

1. the recent ones (presumably recognised directly from the fruit which are in close up, as there's no other indication of what they are) and

2. an earlier set I had forgotten about from six years ago in South Africa - it's hard to tell with that whether it recognised the whole tree (the fruit themselves are not that obvious) or it has read the tiny hand written label on the ground which says "medlar" (sideways for bonus points!)

I don't know, we have it everywhere in Eastern Europe. Maybe US did forget it.

I think it's more likely that one BBC journalist and their friends hadn't heard of it, because they don't sell it in Waitrose.

They can make a whole series of articles, as they "discover" damsons, greengage, quince, mulberries, gooseberries, etc.

(Between my parents, grandparents, and places like the car park at the back of my mum's office, we picked all of these in England.)

There are plenty of results on British websites for medlar trees (for gardeners) and recipes for the fruit.

> one 18th Century doctor and botanist said that they cause diarrhoea

I thought this would have been a prime contributor to its vulgar name!

Odd to call it forgotten; I've known about it for sometime, and it isn't just the fruit-nerd circles I run in. There was even an older tree growing in the yard of an immigrant Greek family in my old neighbourhood in Toronto, they made preserves from them.

There's all sorts of neat things in the same tribe as apples ("Maleae"); one of my favourites is the Amelanchier genus... Known as Saskatoons, Juneberries, Service berries, Shadbush, depending on where you are and which species you're looking at (though they're all very similar in flavour.) Make the best pie.

EDIT: this breakdown process described for medlars is also similar to some varieties of pears, which aren't really ripe "off the tree" but require chilling hours and then re-warming in order for the sugars to transform into something more edible.

There are a couple of these trees in my local park in London. I collect windfall fruit in the autumn. Nobody else seems to notice all the free fruit! I put them in a box in a closet for a month or so and then make jelly. It goes a really deep red colour and has a nice, unique flavour.

In this pic, it looks very similar to India's "Cheeku" (remove the crown and it's an exact match):


i was thinking that too, especially when the flesh was described as sweet and grainy

I got a batch of medlars from a farm this last winter! We ate the first few too soon but the rest were amazing, and very late into the winter when we dont really have fruit besides apples. I'd love for these to become mainstream again.

If you're in the UK/south-east, you can see a mature medlar tree in a corner of the tudor garden at Cressing Temple barns. Note that this is a working garden, so be careful about picking fruits!

There was once a beautiful medlar at the end of the driveway to a very popular farm shop in Brentwood. I used to ask permission to gather fruits, because no one in the shop knew what it was. One year I came there, and the tree was gone - cut down. Really sad.

Medlars make amazing jam!

We have a similar fruit in southern Italy. It's from the sorbus genus. It used to be consumed (almost) rotten during the months of December and January.

Sorbus trees are usually called "rowan" or "mountain ash" in English. And yep, they also need bletting to be at their best.

Mountain ash is a popular landscaping tree here. Birds (particularly waxwings) flock to them in winter when there's little else to eat (and presumably when the fruit has become less bitter, thanks to bletting).

Another Sorbus species is the Wild Service Tree, or Sorbus torminalis. The trees grow in England. The fruit is the chequerberry, which also needs bletting before it's edible. The flavour's similar to tamarind.

Yep, I think that Rowan Atkinson has a very cool first name.

Could you tell me more about this? What's in called in the local language? Is it https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorbus_torminalis as someone mentioned below?

Fascinating read! I really wanted to try this until I got to this part.

A humorous research paper from 1989 gathered together some classic put-downs, including "At best, it is only one degree better than a rotten apple" – from a 19th Century gardening book – and "the medlar is not… worth a turd until it's ripe, and then it tastes like shit" – reportedly the opinion of an anonymous medieval author.

If the garden space is limited, an apple tree is probably the right choice.

It makes a very nice jam, for what it's worth.

They have medlars at the Cloisters in NYC--at least, a few years ago ...


I know them as muşmula. I didn't know that they were forgotten. I'm sad that they are not being sold in cities.

musmala is completly different plant and fruit.

From the article: "It's still widely grown in Iran, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Turkey, where it's sold in markets as musmula".

I know. I am from Eastern Europe, Musmula is Loquat, article has it wrong. I know what is sold in markets personally.

I see, it is called musmula in Turkish, and japanese musmula in other places https://sh.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanska_mu%C5%A1mula

Musmula is this fruit. Mentioned in the article as well.

Reminds me of a fruit I know as Chico Zapote: Inedible when unripe (feels like green bananas and not sweet), then edible for a day, then too sugary for its enjoyment a day later. When ripe/rotten is good in small quantities, but it feels so much like eating sugar that I can’t handle more than half of it.

We have a couple of black sapote trees in our yard; sounds similar.

Ahh I love black sapote too. Indeed you eat it when it feels rotten, except black sapote isn’t particularly sweet, at least the very few ones I tried in Oaxaca.

Did you know… black sapotes are of the same family of persimmons? If you focus, you’ll notice that they taste very similar.

> of the same family

Is an american cousin, Persimmons are Diospyros kaki and Black sapotes are Diospyros nigra, so technically is a black persimmon. In US there are other obscure native persimmons also like Diospyros texana

Pears are similar.

Straight off the tree they are hard and barely edible.

Pick them from the tree and wait a week and they become soft and juicy.

Theres a medlar tree growing in Waterford city (near the Bishops palace) I know an old guy who picks the fruit from it and makes jam. Out of curiosity we picked a couple once, left them for a long time and tried them. They were ok.

Medlar trees are not that hard to come by in the US -- I have a couple in my orchard -- one is really prolific and we make a fair amount of medlar jelly each year. I hadn't realized that medlars were not that well known!

I have 3 of these in my backyard in Croatia, but we call them "Mušmula".

Never realised they went out of fashion elsewhere.

Medlar are also gown in the US; I have a friend growing it in Vermont, for instance. It's OK.

Well, like the old SNL skit: "With a name like that, you KNOW it must be good."

Let me guess by the title, Mespilus germanica?

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