Cultivation and Use of Common Medlar

Reader Contribution by Marion Gabriela Wick
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For about 30 years, we have had this strange alien growing in our garden. My dad, R.I.P, got this little tree from somewhere before 1990. It’s grown big by now, but we never had any use for it’s funny-shaped fruit until about three years ago. And this usefulness seems to be due to climate change.

The Common Medlar, as the tree is called, is not adapted to locations so far north, and we never seen or tasted a ripe fruit before. In fact, we hadn’t the slightest idea what they are supposed to taste like. We knew, they were supposed to be harvested after first frost, but whenever we did, they weren’t ripe, they were hard, turning black quick and tasting awful — not even our pigs would eat them.

And we, indeed, were wondering what people would grow such a tree for. Then three years ago, fall was really warm, summer’s final thunderstorms lasted until end of September, and first frost arrived late, by the end of October. I walk past that tree every time I feed my ducks, so I happened to look at it and I spotted its fruits having changed color from dark brownish green to somewhat yellowish, even a little reddish.

They were ripe, first time ever!

Kitchen Tips for Using Common Medlar

So, I tried one and found it tasting like a blend from pear and quince, having this quince style acidity, but a pleasant taste. I decided to treat it like quinces and cut fruits up to make jam. I found it not being easy to prepare, because it has kind of papery flaps on its bottom and the inside contains five large pits.

I thought, it would perhaps be better to boil fruit and put through a food mill, to separate flesh from all other stuff. The pulp can be used in many ways, first of all to make some nice jam. It doesn’t need any pectin added, because it has plenty of its own. Just add same amount of sugar you have fruit pulp and boil for 5 minutes. That’s it.  

If you like, you can juice it and make jelly. It’s particularly nice, flavored with vanilla and a drop of bourbon whiskey.

You can blend pulp with (plenty of) maple syrup and ground hazelnuts and spread it on wafers, then dehydrate. It’s a nice and healthy treat for kids and grownups. Or just enjoy sweetened juice.

After awhile I had discovered, if you let fruit sit in a warm place for one or two weeks it, at a point, turns soft and sweet and you can eat it raw, but unfortunately it rots away rather quickly once it’s like that.

Cultivating Common Medlar

The medlar tree likes cool temperate climate and needs good fertile soil, ours is growing in pure sea clay. It is content with seaside conditions .Because of its sturdiness, it can put up with high winds (here, 100+mph) and it doesn’t seem to mind frequent salt spray. Fruit needs frost to ripen, but not too early in the year. My medlar tree is 30 years old and about 12 feet high. They might be able to grow higher in less windy or warmer climates. Here it’s growing in a zone 4A.

It’s large white blossoms occur along with leaves at the end of May and are quite decorative, even for to put into a vase.

Marion Gabriela Wick lives on a secluded, 3.5-acre homestead in North Frisia, Germany where she guides tours to the European Wadden Sea National Park and the salt marshes located almost at her doorstep. She has been instrumental in protecting Wiedingharde Beach’s unique “fruity heritage” made up from thousands of wild and heritage fruit trees and shrubs growing along roads and trenches, around fields and farm houses, planted by generations of farmers trying to protect their cottages and grain fields from the regions very harsh weather conditions. Read more from Marion at The Fairies Garden and connect with her on Facebook. Read all of Marion’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

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