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No Sooner Ripe But Rotten

The Medlar (Mespilus germanica) is native to Asia Minor and can be found in Southeastern Europe and the Black Sea coast of modern Turkey. You can also find the tree and its unusual fruit here in Mallorca. The fruit was very popular during William Shakespeare’s time; he made reference to this fruit in some of his works, such as Romeo and Juliet, As you like it, Measure for Measure, and Timon of Athens. The reference in today’s headline is not made to the Bard of Avon but, instead, is a quote from Thomas Dekker and The Honest Whore (1604): “I scarce know her, for the beauty of her cheek hath, like the moon, suffered strange eclipses since I beheld it: women are like medlars, no sooner ripe but rotten”. Apologies for the obvious sexist overtones. The fruit is also referred to by Miguel de Cervantes in his Don Quixote, there without any machismo. Nowadays, the fruit is not widely appreciated, as far as I can gather, neither in literature nor for eating.

The point I am trying to make is that the medlar is probably one of the most peculiar fruits you may ever have seen or eaten. You cannot eat it when ripe but, only when it is bletted or retted, just before it gets mouldy. You can also make jellies, chutneys, pies and tarts from it. My wife makes Medlar jelly from Mallorcan medlars. It has a lovely clear red colour. We use it instead of red currant jelly with roast lamb or roast pork to improve the meat’s flavour. The jelly is also great with a warm scone, toasted tea cake or hot cross buns. Slice the pastry in half, butter it well and add a generous dollop of medlar jelly. Delicious. And, of course, the plant makes a very nice tree indeed for your garden.

I would like to be able to tell you what the Mallorcan farmers or their wives use the medlar (Catalan: Nesprer, Castellano: Nispolero) for. Even though you can find this fruit in the markets right now here on the island and after numerous enquiries about the fruit’s use, I was simply told that one eats it as it goes soft and almost into decay. Oh well, I think I prefer the jellied version.

If you want to find recipes for making Medlar jelly, please consult the Internet. If you want to try Medlar jelly without going through the process of making a preserve you can buy a decent version from Croft House and also from Wilkin & Sons, albeit not made from medlars grown in Mallorca.

The photo (top) was taken in Felanitx, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: November 26th, 2010. The time was 14:31:23. The photo (second from the top) was borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of flickr and catofstripes. The two bottom photos were also borrowed from the Internet, courtesy of adambalic.typepad.com and mellerio.org.uk. Thank you very much.

2 replies »

  1. Thank you for this info. I have heard of Meddler fruit in England, even heard them mentioned on The Archers! I know what Nespera trees and fruit are but I never realised they were one and the same!

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