Grow Your Own

Medlars

Medlars are excellent trees for the garden. They are ornamental, with a spreading habit, pretty late-spring to early-summer blossom and good autumn colour. The edible fruits are an acquired taste and tart if eaten raw, but make pleasantly flavoured jellies or desserts and can be used for making wine. Left to soften or ‘blet’, the fruit mellows and is a traditional and unusual, treat.

'Iranian Medlar'

Grow

Medlars grow best in a deep, fertile, well-drained soil and tolerate most soils, unless they are very chalky or poorly drained.

They prefer a warm, sheltered, sunny site but can be grown in partial shade. Leaves and flowers are easily damaged by strong winds.

In March apply general fertiliser, such as Growmore, at 70g per sq m (2oz per sq yd) over the rooting area, then mulch with well-rotted farmyard manure or compost.

Adequate moisture is essential to obtain strong growth and good cropping. Water young trees during dry spells for the first three or four years.

Read more information on growing medlars

Pruning

Prune annually in winter to maintain a good shape and encourage flowering and fruiting.

When buying a young tree choose a part-trained standard or half-standard tree.  Prune young trees as you would apple and pear trees, so read more about formative pruning of apples and pears in our advice profile.

Plant

Plant from November to March; when planting several, allow 4.5m (15ft) between each tree. Stake trees for the first 3-4 years.

Medlars are best grown as standard or half-standard trees, grafted onto semi-vigorous rootstocks. These reach 4-6m (13–20ft) in height and spread.

Common problems

Winter moth caterpillars

Winter moth caterpillars: Attacks fruit trees, oak, sycamore, hornbeam, sorbus, roses and many other deciduous trees and shrubs

Remedy: Pick off caterpillars and encourage bird predators in spring.

More info on Winter moth caterpillars

Harvesting

Harvest from late October to early November, when they are not fully ripe or leave them on the tree well into autumn to develop flavour, if there is no danger of frosts.

Harvest in dry conditions when the stalk parts easily from the tree.

Fruit must be ‘bletted’ before eating raw. Briefly dip the stalks in a strong salt solution to prevent rotting. Store in trays, making sure the fruits are not touching, eye downwards, in a cool, dark, frost-free place, for two or three weeks, until the flesh becomes soft and brown but not rotten.

Recipes

Nigel Slater suggests trying out this bronze-coloured recipe for medlar jelly that goes perfectly with cold roast meat.

Varieties

Royal:Fairly upright habit and medium-sized fruits.

Nottingham:More upright habit and the best flavour; fruits are fairly small.

Dutch:Spreading habit and moderately large fruit.


Buy fruit

Do now

  • Harvest fruit in dry conditions
  • 'Blet' fruit before eating raw

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