Medlar

Ark of taste
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Medlar trees (Mespilus germanica), which grow wild or can be cultivated, are a member of the rose family. They are small to medium trees with gnarled and brittle branches. They have attractive white flowers, and the wild variety has thorns. Medlars are propagated by grafting or budding. Various species have been used to provide rootstock; today, the quince is most commonly employed. The medlar itself is a small fruit with a diameter of up to 5 centimetres and a weight of about 15 grams. It somewhat resembles a brown-skinned apple. When unripe, the Medlar has a green and purple skin with a slight gloss, but at this stage it is rock-hard and considered astringent and inedible by most. The fruits are generally harvested in late October or early November. When ready to eat, the fruit has a dull purple-brown colour and is soft. Its flavour is then described as sweetly acidic, like a toffee apple, with a slightly grainy texture. The medlar is grown in southeast England is a native of the South Caucasus region that made the long journey into northern Europe. The Romans may even have brought medlars to Britain. A single seed has been excavated in Silchester (in south central England), and it was certainly cultivated there during the Middle Ages. The hedgerow specimens that are still found, especially in the southeast, are probably escapees from this early cultivation. Perhaps what makes the medlar quintessentially British was the enjoyment of the bletted fruit by drinkers of port wine at the end of a meal. Bletting is the process of storing the fruit in such a way as to become overripe and therefore sweeter. Medlars used to be brought to the table in a dish still covered with sawdust and cleaned off by the diners who scraped out the flesh to eat with sugar and cream, and sometimes cheese to accompany their port. Consumption of the whole fruit has fallen out of popularity, but the use of medlar as a jelly accompanying meat has seen their survival. Today, the medlar tree is now largely considered ornamental. The fruits can be found in farm shops, farmer’s markets and specialist food shops while they are in season from late autumn to early winter. These locations often also sell products like the medlar jelly or jam. The businesses that make medlar products in England mostly source fruit from private gardens or small farmyards.Photo: kategl.blogspot.com

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