Monday, December 05, 2011

Medlar update.


The medlars are bletting to perfection; an old bronze in colour, evenly, heavily soft, their skin, like an old person's, the way my hands are becoming, holding the depression when pushed gently inwards. A few of them fail in this delicate balance of decay, and a hairy mould penetrates through lesions and spoils the taste with mustiness, but many of them are quite flawless. Sometimes when turning them and bringing in the ones that are ready, I stand outside in the cool damp winter air and pick a hole in one and suck the flesh out, as it's recommended you should.  Something of dates, something of apple butter, something of spices.

Mostly though I bring them in, scoop out the pulp and freeze it in batches, planning a vast medlar fool for the turn of the year. I've developed a method of taking them apart: with a sharp serrated knife take the stalk end off and peel the skin away downward, then turn them over and remove the star shaped crown ( the 'open arse' in some parlance!), taking out the seeds with it, count these out, there are five in each, unfailingly.  I sometimes lick the flesh off the seeds.

I stopped again at the rather dour modern house which has the trees in front of it, climbed the outside stairway at the side and pressed the button of the doorbell.  After a moment a birdy old lady opened it - the bell didn't work, she said.

I asked if I could take some medlars, and she was more than happy, but said they were hard and sour, that she didn't really know what to do with them.  I explained that I was ripening them, and we chatted a bit, agreed that, although jam was a possibility, we didn't in fact eat that much jam, and there'd been so much other fruit, the apples were overwhelming, but then the birds have to eat too... Now when the children were young, she recalled, they used to eat the medlars all the time. Don't they have a lot of big seeds inside? Take all you want, she repeated.

So I was able to shuffle through the leaf litter in the beds under the trees and find the unblemished, hard, russety globes with my feet ( the ones I picked up the week before had mostly fallen on the road surface so that many were damaged) and fill a cotton shopping  bag with them, and these are the ones I've been gradually mining from the straw box in the barn.

16 comments:

Isabelle said...

Very interesting. I've heard about rotten medlars but never seen one.

the polish chick said...

"something of dates, something of apple butter, something of spices"

mmm, sounds delicious. sadly, i haven't ever heard of them, never mind seen them, before your blog. can you save me a couple, please?

Dale said...

:-) They do sound wonderful.

Murr Brewster said...

The Medlars are bletting! The Medlars are bletting! I have now gone back in time to a place I don't know, but I'm being warned about something. What IS the taste of a fruit you've never met?

earlybird said...

mmm - mouth-watering description. I've never tasted them.

Lorenzo da Ponte said...

The Medlar Request (a new novel by Ludlum or one of his clones). Though I never took it quite that far, I was constantly looking for conversational opportunities in France, often to the startlement of those I spoke to. No doubt they saw me as an inveigler. Does Tom approve? Mrs LdP didn't - it was counter to the whole of her SE England upbringing and she would go away into a corner and shrivel. The great thing is one only needs confidence, not good French, because by making these gestures one is entering the House of Correction. I suspect this sort of thing has lost its charm for you because you are no longer conscious of speaking a foreign language. Luckily I have ignorance and incompetence on my side.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins said...

Even as I write we have an earthenware plate of bletted medlars sitting on the slate dairy shelf of our larder. We planted the little tree four years ago and already it's giving up a generous crop. A few weeks ago our Argentine postman asked me about the tree... he'd heard we had a medlar tree and had always wanted to see one... and so I took him to the back orchard to show him. He went away with a small box of them, and later returned with a jar of his own crab-apple jelly for us. It's a brave little tree. It's had two grim winters to contend with while in its early years, and yet it thrives.

herhimnbryn said...

They sound wonderful. Have never tried them, but thanks to you I can imagine!

Dave King said...

You've got me salivating.

The Crow said...

One of the things I like so much about blogs is learning new things. I've not heard of nor seen medlars before visiting here. An interesting fruit, and interesting post. Thank you, Lucy.

Plutarch said...

Let me aplogise in advance if you or someone else has already mentioned it here. I checked back to your previous medlar account, just in case and could't find it, so here is D H Lawrence on medlars: "Wineskins of brown morbidity, autumnal excrementa" giving off an "exquisite odour of leave taking."

Lucy said...

Thanks for your enthusiastic responses, I do rather feel I post about medlars rather a lot.

Isabelle - Shakespeare was rather keen on them, of course.

PC - I wouldn't vouch for the state of them on arrival if I posted them!

Dale - they are rather luscious!

Murr - nice to see you here. 'What is the taste...' sounds faintly koanic!

Eb - Apparently, when they grow in more southerly places they ripen normally, so you might yet find them down your way.

LdP - I'd kind of like to take back 'inveigling', only of course it's not really possible to take things back. 'Cajoling' is nicer, or the French 'câliner' has followed an interesting path... No, I have not achieved and will not now the level of automatic fluency you credit me with, and it really depends on the situation and my comfort and, as you say, confidence within it. I am inarticulate and tongue-tied at my drawing class. I am also noticing how quickly my French going rusty with using it less at work. Tom's approval of my engagement in chitchat rather depends on how much it is interfering with such things as getting around the shop or out of the doctor's surgery, or the eating of dinner. As it probably would in English.

Clive - that's interesting that they can be fruiting in such a short time after planting, I assumed they'd be one of those things that had to be ancient and well-established, like mulberries. They are beautiful little trees, the flowers are splendid as is the foliage, especially in autumn, and the shape is graceful. They certainly excite curiosity in some people, like your Argentine posty!

HHB - the real medlar expert is Anna at medlar comfits, http://medlarcomfits.blogspot.com/
who is in Australia, so they must exist there!

Dave - good, nice to see you!

Crow - I seek to educate as well as to please!

Plutarch - that was my old friend at Twisted Rib who quoted Lawrence, very amusingly deprecatingly! I felt sure Baudelaire should have written about them too, but could find no link between his name and the French word 'néfle', though stuff about rotten carcases and 'strange music of decomposition' did come up. In fact though, the bletted state is at a delicate point between true decay and ordinary ripeness, but the link between the word 'morbid' in English and its sense in Italian is interesting - I always think it's funny that amaretti biscuits are described as 'morbidi'!

Julia said...

First met in Shakespeare, best et* on Box Elder. If I never track one down in person, I do have a positive idea of their taste now!

*Southern for eaten

Lorenzo da Ponte said...

Ohmigosh did you imagine my use of "inveigler" to be teasing? Oh, come friendly asp. Most I close down another blog?

I was delighted by the word, and here's why. On the social acceptance scale journalists are rated slightly above whorehouse keepers and slightly below estate agents. We glory in inverted labels, hence "hack" and "muck-raking". In this context I was honoured to have attracted a new, slightly more exotic word that described my trade and my only real professional qualifications: curiosity and an ability to ask questions. By all means take it back if it makes you uneasy (oh how gun-shy I am these days) but don't apologise.

Lucy said...

LdP - Oh well if you like it keep it by all means! You see this is why people make little smiley emoticons. I checked it and it really isn't considered pejorative. Gros câlin!

Nimble said...

I like to hear that Project Medlar is unfolding in good order. I was also unfamiliar with them and glad to know more. It makes me think of persimmons in the US midwest and south. These (not Japanese fuyus that are eaten out of hand) are the ones that need to freeze before they are edible. http://www.klru.org/ctg/resource/Article/Preparing_Persimmons_for_Freezing_or_for_Cooking/