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Grow Your Own Medlars

Updated on December 11, 2014
My Medlars growing on my medlar tree
My Medlars growing on my medlar tree | Source

How to Grow a Medlar Tree

It's so nice to grow your own medlars. These old-fashioned fruits were popular in Victorian times but have since fallen from favour, so growing them yourself is possibly the only way to get your hands on these unusual fruits!

The medlar is a small, pretty tree with a rather gnarled, 'Japanese' habit when mature. It's deciduous, has long, mid-green oval leaves and beautiful, creamy white flowers in spring.

The fruits are small, golden globes that are ready along with the first frosts of winter. Gather them when they become soft in November, the last fruit harvest of the year.

These ornamental trees are easy to grow , hardy and tolerant as well as decorative and fruitful - who wouldn't like one in their garden? Our very own medlar tree at Les Trois Chenes, our bed and breakfast in Limousin, S W France, has blessed us with a wonderful harvest every year for the last decade.

Where Can You Grow Medlars?

From Florida to Maine

Medlars ripen best in Mediterranean climates and can withstand temperatures as low as -25° so chances are that you could grow medlars where you are. The grow in Britain well but may not ripen fully, however in Limousin, S W France they ripen beautifully on the tree.

My Google Maps - Help me to make a medlar map!

I know that medlars grow in England and France, and I've read that they grow in Maine and Florida. Where else do they grow? Why not help me to make a Medlar Map by leaving a message in the comments box at the end of this lens telling me where you grow medlars, or have seen them grow?

show route and directions
A marker -
England
get directions

B marker -
Videix
get directions

C marker -
Florida
get directions

E marker -
Netherlands
get directions

The Royal Horticultural Society book of Hawthorns and Medlars - The final word!

Our medlar tree
Our medlar tree | Source

What Are Medlars?

Medlars are trees bearing medlar fruit

The Medlar Tree

There are two species of medlar, The Common Medlar, is a small tree,( latin name: Mespilus germanica and Stern's Medlar (Mespilus canescens) discovered in North America in 1990. They belong to the Rosaceae (rose) family, along with their relative, the Common Hawthorn, (Crataegus monogyna).

The Medlar Fruit

The medlar fruit is a pome, (the best-known example of a pome is the apple - I wonder if this is why an apple is called a pomme?). They are small, round, light brown when mature turning a deeper, chocolatey brown in November. They are pretty little fruits with five large, star-shaped calyx at the end.

You harvest your medlars after the frosts as late as possible in November when they are soft and 'bletted'. Please do note that soft and bletted does not mean 'rotten'. The fruit may look rotten if you're thinking of a nice ripe, crunchy red apple or a just-softened peach, but ripe medlars are brown and soft, but not rotten.

Image: My medlar tree at Les Trois Chenes. It's in the chicken run (not that the chickens stay in there with the medlar tree!

Medlar tree in the Roman gardens at Casinomagus, Chassenon, France
Medlar tree in the Roman gardens at Casinomagus, Chassenon, France | Source

Where Do Medlars Come From?

The history of the medlar

The medlar originally came from Asia Minor, the Caucasus and Northern Iran and they have a long and rich history. We know that it was grown in Greece by 700 BC and came to Rome about 200 BC; medlars feature in the mosaics at Pompeii. Medlars were also very popular in the Middle Ages and were the mainstay of medieval French and English gardens. They retained their popularity in England right up to Victorian times but them seem to have fallen from favour. This seems to be a bit of a shame.

The picture on the right is of a medlar tree in the Roman gardens of Casinomagus. This is the site of Roman baths, a village and temples near the town of Chassenon in the Poitou-Charente, South West France. It is of European importance as much of the structure of the buildings remain and it is just ten minutes from Les Trois Chenes.

The gardens are a recent addition to the site and they illustrate the range and use of the plants that the Romans would have used.

The fruit of the common medlar, has been used as a metaphor for old age, and especially premature age

Medlar fruit - inside they are like apple puree
Medlar fruit - inside they are like apple puree | Source

What do Medlars Taste Like?

Like slightly burnt apple puree

They look and feel like apple puree too! The fruits contain rather large pips or seeds and, when the fruit is ripe in early winter, the inside is soft and pulpy. It is a rich brownish colour like apple puree that's been exposed to the air. It has a slight burnt taste.

Well - that's the nearest that I can get to explaining what a medlar tastes like. Try one and see for yourself.

Medlar tree flowers
Medlar tree flowers | Source

Medlar Varieties

Which is the best medlar variety?

The Large Dutch Larger fruits but coarser texture and poor flavour. Vigorous and needs room.

The Nottingham More compact, smaller fruit prone to cracking open and the worst cropping. (Not a lot going for this then?).

The Iranian Medlar Good quality small fruit and perhaps the best if you want to eat it fresh. The fruit has a distinct, slightly conical shape, a closed eye, and so is less likely to crack and rot than some other varieties. It ripens early

Bredase Reus Medlar Origin: Netherlands. Bredase Reus is self-fertile and crops well alone, but, like many things in life - it does better with playmates - and has more fun?

Other cultivars include, Macrocarpa, Royal, Taylor and Westerveld. The Bredase Reus, Macrocarpa, Royal and Westerveld all have similar, roundish medium sized fruit that ripen late. The fruit inside is drier than the Iranian and has a plainer sweet flavour without the subtleties of the Iranian medlar.

So - the Iranian it is then?

Can I Train A Medlar Tree?

According to Hamid Habibi (see links below) Medlars can easily be trained into restricted forms such as cordons - but in this form, while they remain vigorous, they may produce less fruit than apples or pears. Train cordons on Quince A or hawthorn rootstock as oblique cordons about 2 m high.

It should also be possible to train medlars as fans or espaliers.

How To Pick Medlars

Your medlars will ripen around November and are ready to eat when brown and squidgy, but I find that if I leave them on the tree until ripe, many have already dropped and the chickens have eaten them! It's better to pick the medlar just before they ripen, while still firm, this way they are easier to pick and you'll loose fewer fruits. Ripen them up in the house at room temperature.

Medlars and Quinces

A bowl of medlars
A bowl of medlars | Source

What to Do With a Medlar

Medlar recipes

Well, you can eat them fresh, either straight from the tree or after you've bletted them in a box. They are great with cheese and make a pretty picture when decorating the cheese board.

You can make them into medlar cheese, (medlar jam), or medlar jelly. You can also make a lovely tart using a pumpkin pie recipe and replacing the pumpkin pulp with medlar pulp and you can make medlar cheesecake.

Try roast medlars with cinnamon and sugar. See below for some medlar recipes.

Do you have any good medlar recipes?

Let me know by leaving a message in the comments box at the end of this page!

You Can Freeze Medlars

Keep them to eat for the rest of the year

Pick the medlars when almost ripe and then ripen them in the house. You can then freeze them for use throughout the year. Once defrosted they lose little of their flavour or texture.

The calyx end of the fruit has led it to receive the rather crude name of "open-arses"! (Sorry about that!)

How to Plant a Fruit Tree - This is a great tree planting video

It takes a bit of time to watch this but it's because they give you ALL the information you need to plant a tree. Well worth investing five or ten minutes and carrying out their instructions to the letter. (I'm a landscape architect as well as an artist and so I'm used to telling people how to plant a tree or two!)

More Medlar Information - Keepers Nursery

Much of the information here comes from Hamid Habibi of Keepers Nursery - he and I seem to be the only two writing about medlars on the internet!

A Young Medlar Tree in Limousin

A Young Medlar Tree in Limousin
A Young Medlar Tree in Limousin | Source

Great Growing Tips to Green Up Your Fingers - Get expert advice on choosing, planting and caring for fruit trees

Chequers is another forgotten fruit related to the medlar and hawthorn family. It is the fruit of the Chequer or wild service tree, Sorbus torminalis They are natives of Europe and the fruit is edible and apparently tastes like dates, although I have never even seen one, let alone tasted them. They are too astringent to eat until, like the medlar, they have been bletted.

In herbal medicine they were used to treat cholic.

Image: By Rosenzweig Courtesy Wikimedia Commons, GNU licence

What Do You Think of Medlars? - Love them or hate them?

Have you ever tried a medlar?

See results

Leave Me a Message - Do you have a medlar tree near you?

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    • BLouw profile image
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      Barbara Walton 4 years ago from France

      @Ruthi: They are an interesting fruit, Ruthi. Hope you can find one to try - always nice to find something new.

    • profile image

      Ruthi 4 years ago

      I've heard of but have never seen nor tasted a Medlar, to my knowledge anyway. I would love to try the fruit of the tree.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 4 years ago from France

      @LisaAuch1: Thank you so much for dropping by, Lisa. Doubt if you can grow them in the rude north, but you might come across them on your travels south.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 4 years ago from France

      @techmom: I hope you mangage to find them techmom. I love trying new foods.

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 4 years ago from Scotland

      Never heard of these, but you had me at the description of them....yummy!

    • techmom profile image

      techmom 4 years ago

      I've never heard of these, but now I want to try them!

    • magictricksdotcom profile image

      magictricksdotcom 5 years ago

      I've never heard of medlars. Just think- I can never make that statement again. :-) Thanks for the interesting lens!

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

      Really interesting; I hadn't heard of this fruit. Funny looking isn't it? But I'm sure you can make wonderful things out of them. How 'bout popping by with a pie?

    • Jimmy Gavin profile image

      Jimmy Gavin 5 years ago

      This is a first for me never heard of medlars at all in my 60 years on this earth, nice lens really informative, well done

    • AustriaChick profile image

      AustriaChick 5 years ago

      Never heard of these unusual fruits. Thanks for the information!

    • profile image

      motobidia 5 years ago

      I love medlars and I wish I could buy this fruit at my grocery store! They are really yummy!

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      I've never eaten a medlar. Actually I hadn't heard of them until now. Learned something new today; thank you! :)

    • caketech profile image

      caketech 5 years ago

      I have never heard of these before! Thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Very interesting. I don't have a medlar tree, but I enjoyed learning about these trees. God bless!

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I don't think I've ever seen a medlar tree, but I've mostly lived in the SW/West Coast of the U.S.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @Titia: Many thanks for this contribution, Titia. I've added the Netherlands to the map. We 'lose' many of ours but we still have plenty for ourselves, so I'm happy to share with all the wildlife.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @tylerabernethy22: I had a look at Muscadines, tylerabernethy21, and they do look similar, but muscadines seem to grow on vines and are grapes, while medlars belong to the rose family and look a little like rose hips. Must find out more about muscadines. Thanks for the message.

    • Titia profile image

      Titia Geertman 5 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      I live in the South of the Netherlands and we have a medlar tree in our garden.

      I share the fruits with the birds and hedgehogs. The medlar is family of the rose.

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 5 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      I have never heard of these fruits before. Thanks for the info.

    • tylerabernethy22 profile image

      tylerabernethy22 5 years ago

      @BLouw: Absolutely! This is a great resource for planting them!

    • tylerabernethy22 profile image

      tylerabernethy22 5 years ago

      I have never heard of medlar, but they seem to remind me of Muscadines!

      Best Wishes,

      ~Tyler

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      Thank you all so much for the messages. I'm afraid I couldn't reply individually, but I have tried to answer specific questions. Anyone that plants a medlar, please do get back to this page and let me know how you got on!

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @KamalaEmbroidery: Yes, I think so LoveEmbroidery. We pick them in November, before the frosts but when they start to go soft. I've also been told to pick them hard and store them until soft. I tried this and it worked too, so I'm fairly sure that you could harvest them without a frost. (If you hear otherwise, give them a blast in the freezer like you do with seeds that need a frost to germinate!). Good luck. Do report back.

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      I have never heard of medlars (neither has my spellcheck!) - thank you for the introduction Spring Blessings to France.

    • SadSquid profile image

      SadSquid 5 years ago

      It is great to learn about a fruit that I had no idea existed! And one that can be grown in Europe too, so not that exotic. It is strange how there is fashion for fruit, and some go out of fashion and become forgotten.

    • Scraps2treasures profile image

      Scraps2treasures 5 years ago

      I had never heard of a medlar. So when I saw your lens on the front page, I had to check it out. If they taste like pureed apples, I bet my kids would love them.

    • KamalaEmbroidery profile image

      KamalaEmbroidery 5 years ago

      I'm in California bay area. Will they ripen if there's no real frost?

    • abb1fan profile image

      abb1fan 5 years ago

      I've never heard of the medlar tree

    • Close2Art LM profile image

      Close2Art LM 5 years ago

      loved the lens, Blessed

    • sidther lm profile image

      sidther lm 5 years ago

      I do not have one, but I am thinking about giving it a try! This really is a fascinating article! I am in south Texas but the way our yard is I have different areas that have been able to support plants that prefer different regions and they are doing well, maybe I can grow a Medlar too! I am actually about to receive a cacao plant which I am VERY excited about!

    • Bestbuyguide profile image

      Bestbuyguide 5 years ago

      Wow, such an unusual fruit. I shall pass on trying them however, as they look like rotten apples to myself.

      Fabulous lens and educated me on a new fruit, thank you.

    • AndyDad LM profile image

      Andrew Scott 5 years ago from New Zealand

      Never heard of them before. Fascinating lens, congratulations on LOTD

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I'd heard of medlars but never thought to try growing them til i stumbled on your article. Thank You! and Bon Appetit!

    • profile image

      zafeyry 5 years ago

      I had no idea what a medlar was coming into your lens, but now I want to plant a tree!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I'd never heard of medlars before your article. Thanks for the introduction.

    • profile image

      jfjones1 5 years ago

      This is so interesting. This is why I love Squidoo. I've have never heard of this fruit before. It kind of reminds me of a persimmon. But, I love that I can learn from a fellow writer who is all the way on the other side of the world. It is true. You can learn something new...How cool is that?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Congratulations for being featured on Squidoo's 2012 Spring Gardening Showcase and Blessed by a fellow Gardener and Squidoo Angel

    • jordanmilesbask profile image

      jordanmilesbask 5 years ago

      Congrats, this lens is my 900 SquidLikes! Well Done!!

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      Squidoo is certainly a source of information. Thank you for publishing this lens. Now I know about medlars.

    • Budeni profile image

      Budeni 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this. I didn't even know Medlars existed... ;-)

    • profile image

      Thelastmimzy 5 years ago

      Wow! I want a medlar tree! Im in Florida and I see from your map they can grow here!

    • livinglargeandh profile image

      livinglargeandh 5 years ago

      Who knew? It's so interesting that in our time we can readily communicate with people around the world.

    • ferginarg lm profile image

      ferginarg lm 5 years ago

      Probably like most of your visitors I had not heard of Medlars before reading this, so thanks for sharing, now I have to find one to taste it! Might be difficult where I live though...

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @PennyHowe: the same to me. This is the first time I hear about this fruit.. it's really interesting!

      http://www.nghenghiepviet.com ..

    • EmmaCooper LM profile image

      EmmaCooper LM 5 years ago

      A lovely lens for a lovely tree :)

    • julescorriere profile image

      Jules Corriere 5 years ago from Jonesborough TN

      What an enjoyable lens. I had not heard of Medlars or medlar fruit, but now I truly want to grow a small tree, just for the sake of having something lost from time. Congratulations on making the Squidoo Best of Gardening 2012 Lenses. Blessed.

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 5 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      It's great to learn about a new plant. Enjoyed your presentation. Thanks

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I am not familiar with medlars so I enjoyed your lens.

    • PennyHowe profile image

      PennyHowe 5 years ago

      Never heard of medlars before, so thanks for helping me learn something new today. Great lens. Thanks again!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I saw the intro picture on the front page of Squidoo, and had to come and see what this tree is. I had not heard of it before. I learn something new everyday on Squidoo. Great lens!

    • gamrslist profile image

      gamrslist 5 years ago

      i had never heard of medlars thank you cool lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Like most others here, I had never heard of medlars. Thank you for introducing them to me!

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      This is a great lens. I never heard of medlars before. The lens is so thorough and so informative. Great job.

    • DeniseDurham2011 profile image

      DeniseDurham2011 5 years ago

      I have seen medlars & always wondered where they came from & what they were. Thanks for the informative lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great educational worth of a fruit I surely didn't know about. *blessed by a squid angel*

    • intermarks profile image

      intermarks 5 years ago

      Medlar is really kind of new fruit to me. I would love to taste it if I have got some. Thank for the information.

    • lasertek lm profile image

      lasertek lm 5 years ago

      No. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      i have never heard of medlar which cathed my attention to your lens... thanks for sharing, i knew a fruit today...

    • dwnovacek profile image

      dwnovacek 5 years ago

      This is the first I've ever heard of medlars! I'd love to try one someday. Informative and attractive lens - thank you for all your hard work. Angel Blessed!

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      Wow - how interesting! I think I saw one of these in Taiwan. I love learning something new. Thanks!

    • Northwestphotos profile image

      Northwestphotos 5 years ago

      Had never heard of medlars before! Thanks for the interesting info!

    • joykennel profile image

      joykennel 5 years ago

      Congrats to you--pinning this to share with the world!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 5 years ago from Southampton, UK

      You so rarely hear of Medlars and Quinces and the like here in the UK these days, such a shame. Maybe you can help to bring them back into fashion. I really enjoyed this lens, must have been English settlers who took them to New England I guess. Blessed.

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 5 years ago

      I had not heard of this fruit. Thanks for introducing me to it. Congratulations on your Purple Star!

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 5 years ago from Maryland

      Congrats on your new purple star! :)

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 5 years ago

      Very interesting. Thanks for teaching me about medlars.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Interesting tree. A beautiful flower from a tasty fruit

    • profile image

      burntchestnut 5 years ago

      I've never heard of medlars, but I have heard of quince, although I've never eaten one. I'd like to try medlars (and quince).

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @MelonyVaughan: I'd love more people to know about the medlar, and to know what to do with them. Thanks for dropping by.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @MBradley McCauley: Thanks for these kind words, Mary.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @traveller27: Thanks for dropping by, Heidi. I love finding new foods, especially ones that require little time and effort to grow.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @Terrie_Schultz: They're not very well known at all. Perhaps they are due a come-back.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @anonymous: Thanks for your comment OutbackJack. Medlars come from Iran and that area and I'd bet it gets pretty hot there in summer. In Limousin it can get to 30c. I never water mine as Limousin is pretty green and the tree is well established, but perhaps if you are in a very hot and dry place, you might have to water.

    • MelonyVaughan profile image

      MelonyVaughan 5 years ago

      I've never heard of medlar trees before until now. Fascinating!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great lens it was the first time I ever heard of these trees. I see you give the minimum temp that they will tolerate but I am wondering if they will handle the heat as well? I enjoyed this lens very much - Blessed

    • MBradley McCauley profile image

      MBradley McCauley 5 years ago

      Who ever would have thought you could make such a great lens about medlar trees. I'm fascinated. Good job.

    • traveller27 profile image

      traveller27 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing....I didn't know about medlars. Very nice!

    • profile image

      Terrie_Schultz 5 years ago

      Very interesting! I never heard of these before.