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Medlar, a fruit tree to rediscover


Medlar is a fruit tree that has long been forgotten but deserves to be rediscovered!

Main Medlar facts

NameMespilus germanica
Family – Rosaceae
Type – fruit tree

Height – 13 to 20 feet (4 to 6 meters)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – rather rich, well drained

Foliage: deciduous – Harvest: end fall – Flowering: end spring → early summer

Plant a medlar tree in your garden, and you’ll be the highlight of all neighbors admiring this uncanny but savory fruit-bearing tree.

Planting medlar

Like most fruit trees, it is best to plant medlar in fall. This promotes root development before winter, thus enhancing recovery and regrowth in spring.

Medlar plantingFor specimens purchased in containers, however, you can also plant in spring if you’re able to increase the amount of water you can provide at the beginning.

  • Medlar loves rather sunny spots, and if sun is lacking, it might not bear medlars.
  • This type of tree adapts to most kinds of soil, as long as it drains well and isn’t too heavy.
  • A blend of planting soil mix and garden soil is perfect for planting medlar.
  • Regular watering over the first year after planting is applicable.
  • Follow our guidance to plant the tree.

Pruning medlar

Pruning medlarMedlar doesn’t need pruning to grow well and produce nice medlars.

However, pruning it at any stage of its life won’t hurt if you wish to keep its size under control. Pruning will let you ensure it takes up only the space you plan for it in your garden landscape.

Heavy pruning every 5 to 8 years is better than yearly trimming.

  • The best season to prune is winter but during non-freezing weather.
  • Removing dead and diseased branches whenever you notice them.
  • Snip off the weaker, frail branches if need be.
  • Remove in-growing branches and even the scaffold branches out.

Harvesting medlar

How to harvest and eat medlar

Medlar harvestWhat’s best is to pick them before birds start pecking at them, and bite in them as you tour around your garden.

Pick the fruit by grasping it between thumb, index and forefinger.

The fruit sometimes bursts open, and even though it looks rotten, it is actually at its best with a taste that is surprising and sweet.

Our bird friends know the secret and quickly come to feast on them when the fruits starts bletting. Bletting means the fruit starts maturing to the point of turning mushy. Although for most fruit types this would be over-ripe, for fruits like medlar and blackthorn sloes, this is really the best time to eat them!

Good to know about the medlar tree

Medlar treeThis unique tree is mostly found in Belgium, Germany and Northern France.

This fruit tree is well suited to harsh climates. Only one medlar species exists to date.

Its deciduous foliage is very dense, and the fruits appear early on in the year, in May. Harvest of these special fruits should wait until the first frost spells, as the fruit softens when faced with frost. This is called “bletted” fruit.

Japanese medlarDon’t confuse German Medlar with Japanese medlar. Japanese Medlar is a another species entirely that mostly grows in the Mediterranean area and bears evergreen leafage.

Medlars are typical ingredients for pies, clafoutis, jelly, liquor and even medlar wine.

Medlar diseases and parasites

Diseases and pests on medlarApart from fire blight that can destroy a medlar within weeds with no hope of treatment, you’ll just have to deal with more common diseases such as European brown rot, also called medlar rot, and powdery mildew.

Most species of fruit trees often fall victim to aphids, and scale insects.

Smart tip about medlar

When harvesting, only harvest fruits that are very ripe on the tree. Once a fruit is detached from the branch, it won’t mature anymore.

  • Medlar fruits are rather fragile. Handle them carefully and don’t stack them.

Images: depositphotos: Marco Varro; Pixabay: Helga, Jaqueline Henning, ahmet dolu, Hans Braxmeier, Mariya Muschard