The Medlar (Mespilus germanica)
In antiquity, the Medlar was cultivated from Western Asia to the Mediterranean: it has been domesticated for at least 3000 years in the areas that are now Bulgaria and Turkey. The fruit looks something like a cross between an apple and a rose-hip, which isn’t far from the truth, as it is a pome, and member of the expansive and economically-important Rosaceae family.
The fruits are acidic and tannic when eaten right off the tree, so they are normally bletted: this is a process where the fruits are allowed to become over-ripe in order to sweeten and soften the tissues. After bletting, the fruits are said to taste like “apple butter,” and can be used in making jams, jellies, and baked goods, or eaten like apple sauce.
They are experiencing a resurgence of popularity among permaculturists and forest gardeners in the middle ranges of the temperate zone, because the extended ripening needs of the fruits means they are available during winter.
Medlars planted in domestic gardens are almost always grafted to a wild Hawthorn (Crataegus sp.). The graft union is normally buried beneath the soil to prevent suckering, and allow the medlar scion to grow it’s own roots (this interspecific graft is not always the hardiest).
I’m going to try my luck with some scion wood from Turkey, grafted with wild rootstock of local hawthorn plants!
More: ’A Fantastically Fruitful Tree for All Seasons’ on The Telegraph