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Mespilus germanica

Origin: Black Sea region, via Poland

Improvement status: Unknown

Seeds per packet: ~20


Life cycle: Perennial

Medlar is one of those odd fruits that once was quite popular but today is grown mainly as a curiosity. Yet it produces fruit that are quite delicious and unlike any other. It's also a beautiful and ornamental tree. Medlars are hawthorn-like trees in the rose family, native to the Black Sea region. Despite their Latin name, they were not known in Germany until their introduction by the Romans. The weird-looking fruit are quirky in that they are basically inedible when fresh until they have been "bletted" (basically brought to the cusp of rotting), at which point they have a taste and texture similar to applesauce mixed with apple butter, even with a natural hint of cinnamon. This stage is sometimes described as "incipient decay." Some persimmons must be similarly bletted to be palateable, along with quince, rowan, and dates. Sea buckthorn berries are said to become sweeter with bletting.

Horticulturalist F.A. Bush wrote in Trees and Shrubs that "if the fruit is wanted it should be left on the tree until late October and stored until it appears in the first stages of decay; then it is ready for eating. More often the fruit is used for making jelly." A Wikipedia contributor notes that fruit should be harvested from the treee immediately following a hard frost, starting the bletting process by breaking down cell walls." In Notes on a Cellar-Book, the English wine legend George Saintsbury called bletted medlars the "ideal fruit to accompany wine."

These seeds were imported from Poland by the good folks at Sheffield's Seed Company in Locke, NY.

GROWING NOTES: Medlars are not for the impatient. It can take two years just to sprout the seeds. Our source for these seeds says they should first be cold stratified for a full year, then warm stratified for 8 to 9 months, then cold stratified for another 120 days. They require light for germination, so should be planted at or just below the surface of your growing medium. They may start sprouting during that final cold stratification. Once established, trees can be treated similarly to apple or pear trees, though they are less plagued by pests.