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.
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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 early spring, feed with a high potassium general fertiliser, such as Vitax Q4. Scatter one handful per square metre/yard around trees growing in bare soil, and one and a half around those in grass. 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.
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 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.
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.
Winter moth caterpillars
Attacks fruit trees, oak, sycamore, hornbeam, sorbus, roses and many other deciduous trees and shrubs
Pick off caterpillars and encourage bird predators in spring.
Nigel Slater suggests trying out this bronze-coloured recipe for medlar jelly that goes perfectly with cold roast meat.
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