November 12th 2011

Medlars are the fruit of the Mesilipus shrub/tree. The plants are common to Europe and Asia Minor and whilst they’ve fallen out of favour lately, Medlars were once popular enough to warrant a mention in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The fruit itself looks a bit like a cross between a Crab Apple and a Rose Hip. Unsurprisingly, the plant comes from the rose family and is a relative of apples, pears and quinces. Because of it’s unusual shape the old fashioned, vulgar, name for the fruit is “open arse” and in French “cul de chien”!

cul de chien

I first noticed Medlars in Neal’s Yard Dairy, a couple of weeks ago and as per the cheese, Neal’s Yard were kind enough to offer a tasting. Interestingly, the fruit has to decompose before it’s good to eat – a process called bletting. The fruit is either left on the tree until the first frost (around the end of October or beginning of November), or it’s picked and stored in a cool dry place. Once bletted, the fruit looks a medium brown colour (inside), not unlike that of an over ripe or bruised apple which is going off. Medlars taste very sweet and creamy (slightly similar to apple purée). Having never noticed the Medlar before, I came across them again at Islington Farmers Market (on the Chegworth Valley stall) this and last weekend. Evidently they are making a comeback!

Medlars are often used to make jelly, cheese and creams. Nigel Slater recommends roasting them with pheasant, which is also in season now.

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6 Responses to Medlars

  1. Brilliant post and I didn´t know about the others names 😉 Am back on the trail of medlars now…fingers crossed!

    • Mad Dog says:

      …and Shakespeare was even cruder:

      “Now will he sit under a medlar tree,
      And wish his mistress were that kind of fruit
      As maids call medlars, when they laugh alone.
      O Romeo, that she were, O that she were
      An open-arse and thou a poperin pear!”

      I does seem to suggest they were quite popular back in Elizabethan times…

  2. c says:

    v nice, when can you come round to cook with me ?

  3. ceciliag says:

    I have seen these in markets in london when I was there but had no idea what they were, a good lesson Mad. c

  4. Pingback: I´ve gone right off Medlars…. « Chica Andaluza

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