Honored many times throughout the centuries, this fruit was a delicacy in medieval halls but has been popular since Victorian times. Son Tra is only now visible, so you will be proud to have grown a delicious and extraordinary harvest of your own.

Medlar

Learn about medlar

Medlar is a member of the pome fruit family (Pyrinae), a subfamily of the rose family (Rosaceae). Contrary to its Latin name, it does not originate from Europe, but from Western Asia and the Caucasus. The Romans brought it to Central and Southern Europe. Whilst the medlar fruit tree was very popular in the Middle Ages, it is now almost unknown. Nevertheless, common medlar is especially attractive and produces very aromatic, apple-like fruits that can be used to make delicious jams, jellies and chutneys.

Medlars are very attractive with their large white flowers and dark green foliage

Common medlar is a hardy, low maintenance fruit tree that can be grown as a large shrub or small tree. It can grow to a height of three to six metres. Its light grey trunk grows into a slightly twisted irregular shape. The twigs are grey and covered in woolly hair.

There are many different varieties of medlar

In addition to the wild form of Mespilus germanica, there are a number of cultivated varieties that differ in growth and fruit size.
– The ‘Large Dutch’ medlar is one of the largest varieties. This is a very old, high-yielding and large-fruited variety with heavy, circular fruits. It is very vigorous and can be recognised by its laurel-like leaves.
– The ‘Macrocarpa’ medlar also has particularly large fruits and reaches a height of 1.5-4 m.
– The high-yielding variety ‘Iranian’ medlar produces early ripening fruits that are good for eating fresh.
– The ‘Royal’ medlar variety has somewhat smaller fruits. The fruits are elongated-round and with a sweet creamy flesh. It grows to a medium height and is shrubby.
– Medlar ‘Nottingham’ is the best known variety in the UK. It has good-tasting smaller fruits and is a small, deciduous tree that grows more upright than other varieties.

Planting medlar

Medlar tolerates most soils but will not be happy in chalky or poorly drained soil. They will grow best in a warm, shaded place with full sun but can also be grown in partial shade. They can be planted at any time of the year as long as the ground is not frozen. You can keep the plants in the garden for one season if needed, but remember to have a full water season.

Plant propagation

Medlars can be propagated in several ways. Firstly, its seeds can be sown. Remove the seeds from the fruit making sure to remove any pulp. Sow the medlar seeds directly outdoors or grow them indoors in seed pots at temperatures between 15 and 20°C. The medlar seeds need a cold stimulus to germinate (stratification). To do this, place the seeds in the fridge at around 5°C for a few days to stratify them. Then fill the seed pots with compost, such as our peat-free Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost, and place the seeds at a depth of about two centimetres. Always keep the soil moist. With this method, it takes the trees a long time to develop enough before they can bear their first fruits.

Medlar can be propagated from seed, layering branches, or root cuttings

A faster and more reliable method than seed propagation is vegetative propagation via cuttings. To do this, cut approximately 10 to 15 cm long, one-year-old shoots that are barely woody from the medlar tree. Remove the lower leaves leaving the upper pair of leaves. Cut the shoot at an angle so that the area where new roots are to form is as large as possible and place them in pots with seedling compost. Keep the soil moist and place the pot in a bright spot but protected from direct sunlight. Once the cuttings have formed roots, plant them in larger pots or outdoors in spring. Since the cultivated forms available in nurseries are usually grafted onto vigorous rootstocks, plants propagated by seed or cuttings may produce smaller fruits.

Medlar tree care

After planting, water the medlar tree regularly. Do not let the soil of newly planted trees dry out completely. Apply a small amount of fertiliser about two or three months after planting to enable the young plants to grow healthily and vigorously. One of the trees striking features are the interestingly crooked branches but, when unmanaged, these have a habit of overcrowding to become tangly and unproductive. Attentive pruning for the first few years will tame growth and encourage the tree to become a vigorous specimen with a well-shaped canopy.

Pruning medlar

After the initial pruning of the medlar tree, a trunk and uniform crown will form so regular pruning is not necessary. Only prune back heavily hanging and protruding branches a little in the winter. The medlars on the market are typically grafted onto a vigorous rootstock (e.g. quince or hawthorn). Sometimes the rootstock sprouts, in which case These shoots should be removed.
Young medlar trees bear fruit very quickly. To avoid the energy-intensive sprouting from damaging the development of the younger plant, cut off the small fruits in summer during its first years of growth.

Even young medlar trees bear many fruits

HARVEST

Medlar fruits are ready to pick in the late autumn once the leaves have already fallen from the tree. Frost is actually beneficial to medlars as it helps with the bletting process. Bletting is necessary to make the fruits soft and ripe enough to eat and it involves allowing the fruits to partially rot in a controlled way.. They must be picked and ‘bletted’ – stored to allow the flesh to soften and sweeten, but not rot. This process takes about two or three weeks. Leave fruit on the tree for as long as possible throughout the autumn to allow the flavour to develop, but be sure to collect your harvest before the first frosts. Pick in dry conditions when the stalk plucks easily away from the tree and store each fruit eye downwards and well-spaced in a cool, dark place until their russet-olive green skins become a rich coppery brown and the flesh yields.

HARVEST

How to eat medlar

It can be eaten raw and made into a variety of dishes. Overripe, soft medlars can be used to make delicious jellies, jams and juices. They can also be made into aromatic fruit leathers. Furthermore, cakes, dumplings and other desserts taste great with some medlar compote. If you would like to treat birds to a sweet snack, remember to leave some medlar fruits behind when harvesting. Medlars not only provide food for birds, but their flowers are also a valuable source of food for bees and other insects.

Fruit can make jam
The fruit can make goji candy

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