bg header


History and nutritional values of medlars

One fruit that has accompanied Western history is the medlar. Actually, evidence of their existence dates back to the first millennium BC, when they were brought from Asia Minor. The Greek, Roman, and mediaeval texts attest to their enormous consumption. Due to its superior organoleptic qualities, the “Japanese” medlar has been more popular than the ancient “European” version for the past few decades (nearly a century).

Regardless of the variety, the medlar is harvested in late autumn, when it is still unripe. The ripening process ends in the following three or four months, after “resting” in an environment protected from sunlight, so that the fruits can be enjoyed in the spring. The pulp is medium-firm, the peel is thin, and the flavour varies from fairly sweet to moderately acidic based on the variety. Medlars are known for their high nutritional content. They include certain group B members as well as vitamins C and A. In addition, they are a wonderful source of potassium and, most importantly, the most potent dietary fibre—formic acid.

The best-known varieties of medlars

While there are many different types of medlars, we will discuss the two main types here: the European and the Japanese.

  • European: They are the so-called “ancient” medlars, having been grown and eaten in Europe since the first millennium BC. They are characterised by a slightly acidic flavour and a dark orange, almost brown skin. The pulp is quite firm.
  • Japanese: They are currently the most widespread medlars. Their pulp and skin have a hue akin to apricots. The pulp is quite juicy, and the flavour is noticeably sweeter. Japanese medlars can grow up to 10 metres tall and are distinguished by their higher leaf content.

The Japanese medlar is the fruit of the ‘Eriobotrya japonica’, a shrub native to Japan and eastern China, now widely cultivated throughout Mediterranean Europe. It is generally the size of an apricot, with a more or less flattened or elongated globular shape and smooth or slightly hairy yellow-orange skin. It contains one to four large brown seeds and a juicy pulp with a sweet-sour flavour. Ripens in June-July. It is used as a table fruit or to prepare preserves and candied fruit.

Recipes with this fruit

Medlars are excellent for raw consumption, perhaps at the end of a meal, as they are a natural table fruit. However, they can act as an ingredient in many recipes. If the medlar is very ripe and the pulp is soft, it can be used in jam-making. It can also be placed on cakes and tarts as a garnish.

Medlars are used much like apricots since they have comparable flavours and consistency (at least the Japanese ariety). As a result, they are also perfect for making delectable and revitalising semifreddos—possibly along with other seasonal fruits.