The Common Medlar is a large shrub or small tree. In Middle Europe it grows up to 3 m tall. It has luxuriant dark green foliage, elliptic, 8–15 cm long and 3–4 cm wide. The leaves turn a spectacular red in autumn before falling. The five-petalled white or pinkish flowers are produced in from May to June.
Mespilus germanica - common medlar
The reddish-brown medlar fruit
is a pome
, 2–3 cm diameter. Common Medlar fruit are very hard and acidic and they ripen in November. They become edible after being softened by frost, or naturally in storage given sufficient time. Once softening begins the skin rapidly becomes wrinkled and turns dark brown, and the inside reduces to the consistency and flavour reminiscent of apple sauce. This can be a cause of confusion to new medlar consumers, as a softened medlar can give the appearance that it has spoiled. It becomes however quite sweet with an absolutely delicious flavour that somewhat resembles a luscious tropical fruit
. The Common Medlar was already being cultivated about 3000 years ago in northern Iran
. It was introduced to Greece around 700 BC and to Rome about 200 BC. It was an important fruit plant during Roman and medieval times. By the 17th and 18th century, however, it had been superseded by other fruits, and is very rarely cultivated today. Common Medlar is one of the few fruit that becomes edible in winter, and an important tree for gardeners who wish to try and have fruit available all year round. The seeds contain the toxic hydrocyanic acid and should not be eaten in quantity. It is hardy to zone 6. It is in flower and the seeds The flowers are hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees. Therefore the plant is self-fertile. It is able to grow on any type of soil - acid, neutral or basic (alkaline) and light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils but grows best on well-drained soils. It requires warm summers and mild winters and prefers sunny, dry locations. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland
) or no shade. The plant tolerates strong winds. In Summer
its ramified branches serve as hidding places for many birds
and other animals and in winter the fruit is eaten by variety of different birds.
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