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Originating in Asia, the medlar has been a popular delicacy in Britain for centuries; eaten at medieval banquets and favoured by the Victorians. The distinctive shape of the fruit - like a large rose hip with a puckered end - has given it a somewhat ribald reputation. The Old English name was 'openaers' or 'open-arse', while in France they are known as 'cul de chien'. At one time, the smutty patter of Parisian medlar sellers would draw large crowds.
Self-fertilising and slow-growing, medlar trees can outlive their owners by hundreds of years. Several examples in England are at least six centuries old They are ideal for the medium sized garden as they won't grow too tall.
Plant them HOW?
Care for them HOW?
We recommend attentive pruning for the first four years - cut back every leading branch by about a third of its new growth from the previous summer, down to an outward facing bud. This will prevent the tree from becoming congested in later life and improve its vigour. Unmanaged trees can be prone to growing inwards, rubbing their branches together and becoming congested and unproductive.
The medlar fruit have an unusual ripening habit; staying hard and inedible until they start to decay and soften in a process called 'bletting'. Harvest them in late November, and store them in the dark until their russet-olive green skin becomes a rich coppery brown and the flesh yields. Breaking the skin and sucking out the bletted flesh (spitting out the smooth seeds) is one good way to experience the inimitable taste.