It’s a living medieval relic that had a fairly dubious following even in its heyday but which is now finding itself a niche in some modern gardens. Medlars originated in Transcaucasia.
They’ve been cultivated by the ancient Assyrians and they spread through the Greek and Roman empires to medieval Britain.
In the warm climate this country enjoyed during the 13th century medlars were quite widely grown, especially at priories and big houses.
But even after conditions turned colder medlars held out in cottage hedgerows.
But nowadays named varieties are being planted once again.
It’s easy to see the attraction.
Medlars make striking dual-purpose trees, with bags of character all year round.
Without any pruning or training a medlar forms an attractive medium-sized, semi-weeping tree, which is covered each spring with large white saucer-shaped flowers up to two inches across.
The large shapely leaves take on bold red and gold autumn tints before falling to reveal the strange fruit, which look like big greeny-brown rosehips, and continue to hang from the bare branches like carved wooden tree decorations.
But they’re useful too.
Traditionally medlars were eaten at the end of a meal with a glass of port but they had to be just right, at the stage known by connoisseurs as “bletted” (a nice way of saying half-rotten).
In the past medlar fanciers picked the fruits a few weeks after leaf-fall and laid them out on straw in an outbuilding to continue ripening until they achieved the perfect state but nowadays it’s usual to leave them hanging on the tree until late October or early November when they’ve turned slightly soft and dark brown.
(It’s fair to say a lot of trial and error is involved.)
Then the biggest and best medlars are eaten the traditional way and the rest are turned into jelly.
(Medlar jelly is a good alternative to cranberry sauce for eating with game or lamb and was at one time recommended for “regularising the stomach”).
What with all the interest in fruit growing and preserve making, home entertaining and eating in, the medlar is creeping back into the national consciousness.
So if you like to be one step ahead and you’re thinking of planting a tree with a difference a medlar may be just the thing for you.
The varieties Nottingham and Dutch are the ones you’re most likely to see and both have been grown here since medieval times; real living antiques.
They are also very easy to grow.
Treat a medlar just like an apple tree.
It’s best grown as a standard or half-standard in the lawn, or given place of honour in the back of a big mixed border where you’ll have a good view of it.
Otherwise, plant it in a wildlife garden or a mixed country fruiting hedge and let it grow up above the dog roses, hazel, sloes and so forth.
It’ll be sure to turn heads, even if it does nothing special for your gastric juices.
Source : EXPRESS