Winter’s Forgotten Fruits…

Just because we’re in the depths of Christmas and winter solstice has passed doesn’t mean there’s no more fruit left on the trees. Many apples cling on, rosehips grip hedgerows and the odd sloe too. But more excitingly, some of the lesser known fruit still hangs around- forgotten or unseen or unknown- and we’ve got some ideas of what to do with it.

Medlars:

Mespilus Germanica is the name of the usual variety found in the UK and Europe- but I like to call them shakespearean fruit. They’re related to Abundance’s usual glory-stealer- the apple, both coming from the Rose (Rosaceae) family, and they look like a cross between a small apple&arosehip. They’ve been around for a long long time but they started losing popularity a good time ago and now it’s rare to find a medlar from which this funny-looking fruit grows.

My first experience of a medlar was at a pot luck where a friend of Abundance brought a medlar cake. Most people had no idea what a medlar was- but loved the cake! The funny thing about a medlar is usually needs to be “bletted” before it can be used in usual preserving methods. “Bletted fruit” is essentially a fancy way to say “Rotten fruit”- but this rotten fruit doesn’t go to waste at all! During this “process” the fruit will completely change from a hard white-fleshed fruit to a soft squashy brown gooey flesh (whilst still retaining it’s skin, which will blacken). We’ve bletted rescued medlars by bletting them in a cool-ish dry place in doors. Medlars can also blet whilst still on the tree after a good frost..

What to do with Medlars…

Medlars used to be made into “medlar cheese” in ye olde times, but this cheese is somethin vegans can eat too, it’s essentially just a solid-set jelly (of the jam variety rather than of the wobbly kind), like a membrillo. http://www.historicfood.com/medlar%20cheese%20recipe.htm

Medlars also make a lovely jelly (once bletted)- here’s a very comprehensive blog on medlar jelly making and medlars in general http://www.bandblemans.co.uk/blog-and-receipes/medlar-jelly

& lastly, friend of Abundance Jack, suggested making Medlar Brandy. Blet then wash as many medlars as you have (they’re precious!) and then prick them all over. Stuff them into a bottle, pour in enough brandy to cover them (doesn’t need to be a good ‘un either) and add as much sugar as you reckon- for a rough idea, half as much weight of sugar as of medlars.

Inspired to grow medlars? Here is some more info about them: http://vancouver.ca/vandusen/treeMonth/medlar.htm, they’re a rare treat, easy to grow and won’t outgrow a city garden. And it’s hard to come by preserved medlars so well worth growing your own!

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