Sunday, 16 February 2014

The magic of Medlars

Cultivation and tips
The Medlar tree is an ancient tree steeped in mystique and romance. First discovered in Iran and popularised by the Greeks and Romans, it is a tree most often found in old Cottage Gardens, frequently of old age and imbued with a gnarled sense of rustic character.
As often planted as an ornamental tree as a fruiting one, the interest in old recipes has led to the revival in interest in it’s fruits as well, and thankfully Medlar planting is on the increase once again. The fruits remain an acquired taste and have to be almost rotten before they are used, but Medlar jelly is a unique and piquant accompaniment to meat dishes and when prepared properly can have a sweet, aromatic toffee-apple quality.
In appearance the Medlar makes a conservative and moderately sized tree with toothed leaves and rather large white-pink late Spring blossoms. It is these flowers, it’s rustic character and brilliant red and yellow Autumn leaf colours than endear it to the casual ornamental gardener. It would make a good centrepiece for the kitchen garden or a walled garden perhaps, especially when underplanted with herbs or short annuals. Seldom reaches more than 10-12’ in height.
Medalrs are really quite undemanding easy to grow. They are hardy, seldom get frost damage, flowering after fear of frost has passed, and are self fertile. They suffer from few, if any, diseases. Any soil is acceptable as long as it is reasonably drained and they will tolerate a certain amount of shade as well, provided the tree isn’t overhung. But remember that the more sunshine the tree receives then the better the fruits will ripen; they should not be harvested until late in the Autumn or even early winter.
There is only a small pool of varieties from which to choose.
Mespilus germanica Is the ‘original’ species and still the most oft-planted. It is a pretty tree which will yield well.
Nottingham Is generally considered to be the best fruiting clone.
Royalty is a newer selection with large fruits and good autumn leaf colour.
Dutch Monstrous Is a stronger grower and capable of good crops. Ideal for where a larger tree is required.

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