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Medlars - What You Need to Know

medlarsMedlars - What You Need to Know

Medlars (scientific name, Mespilus germanica) are the fruit of a large shrub, sometimes a small tree from the rose family (Rosaceae). The fruit is rarely eaten fresh, but after being treated (somewhat like olives) it has a very sweet flavor, similar to a date. The treatment is called "bletting" and so the fruit is usually available in the winter.  The fruit has been grown since Roman times.

The fruit - description

When picked ripe, the fruits are about the size of a golf ball and are orange or brown, hard and acidic. They pretty much only become edible after they are softened by a process called bletting. The bletting causes the skin to become wrinkled and turn dark brown. The inside changes to the consistency of applesauce or apple butter with a roughly similar flavor.

The bletting can also happen naturally after being exposed to a frost, must like persimmons. A long storage also reduces the tannin content and fruit acids, increases the sugar content, and changes both the color of the flesh and the levels of minerals.

The bletted medlars can be eaten raw, or in a dish with sugar and cream, but even so, it is said to be an acquired taste. The fruit is naturally high in pectin, so it makes jelly. They are also used to make a medlar "cheese" (which is actually similar to a lemon curd).

Where to get medlarsmedlars just picked

They are quite rare in the United States. They are native to Southwestern Asia and Southeastern Europe.

I've heard there are some stands of trees in the hills near Tehachapi, California and are sometimes sold in the Fall at the Santa Monica Farmers Market

Grow your own medlars

Apparently, they are fairly easy to grow. Raintree Nursery sells at least 5 varieties of the plants. Medlars like hot summers and cold winters, most areas of the country, aside from southern California, southern Texas and Florida, ought to be able to grow them.

Medlar Jelly Recipe


  • 3 pounds (1.4kg) medlars (bletted)
  • 1 green apple
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 3 cups (600g) sugar

Directions: bletted medlars

  1.  Rinse and quarter the medlars, and put them in a large pot
  2.  Chop the apple and addto the pot.
  3. Add the lemon and about 2 quarts of water to cover the ingredients.
  4.  Cook until it begins to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for for 45 minutes.
  5. Strain through cheesecloth in a sieve. Let it stand in the seive overnight.\
  6. Pour the liquid (should be about 1 quart) into a large pot. 
  7.  Put a small plate in the freezer.
  8. Add the sugar to the juice in the pot and cook the jelly until it reaches reaches  a full boil, and boil for 1 or 2 minutes.
  9. Store in clean jars in the fridge where it should be good for almost a year!