We’d heard Seattle had a warm January. I don’t know what I was expecting when I got home, but a few measly crocuses and some new sorrel leaves were not it. If we’d had started seriously our “eat local” and mainly out of our backyard campaign, we’d be eating jam.
This is a medlar. It’s the last fruit of the season, coming ripe around Thanksgiving here in Seattle. Of course, for a medlar to be ready to eat, it’s actually rotting. In the kitchen, we use the more polite term, bletting. This happens after the first frost.
I found our tree on a walk through the West Seattle nursery a few years ago, though I came home and did just enough research on them to become obsessed before going back to buy it. It’s in the corner by our shed and should grow into a small, lovely tree.
This year, we had a small basketful of fruit, maybe a total of fifteen. Ours were the size of a small lime, and considering one must scoop out the rotting fruit and then spit out its large pips, they gave very little sustenance. There is also the issue of the flavor.
My friend Tara, who took these pictures, certainly qualifies as a food adventurer. She says, “No!” to the taste of the medlar, which ranged for me from spicy applesauce to a sour fermenting yard apple. It’s hard to know exactly how bletted these are when you scoop into them.
The Victorians made jam paste to serve with port with these. I’m looking forward to having enough fruit to try it. When I succeed, I’m guessing it will be time to throw another traditional Christmas party with a goose and dress-up clothes.
As odd, forgotten, and time-consuming as the medlar is, it was once a wildly popular fruit. In the time before refrigeration, when fruit needed to come from wagon distance, any fruit before the onset of winter would have been welcome.