Thursday's Guardian Country Diary is all about medlars, the fruit of Mespilus germanica. There is only one tree that I know of in Durham city and this year it produced a bumper crop.
For the first time ever we've been able to collect enough to make medlar jelly, a conserve that was popular in Victorian and Edwardian times and is said to go very well with cold meat.
Medlar is an attractive small tree, with large white flowers in spring and bright autumn foliage that stays on the tree well into November. It's not native to the UK and comes from Asia Minor but it's certainly hardy enough to survive our winters up here in North East England. The trees are usually grafted onto quince, hawthorn or pear rootstocks.
The fruits resemble giant hawthorn berries and don't look very appetising. The French call them cul de chien, dog's arse; I'll leave you to decide why ........
Aside from their appearance, the other problem with medlars is that you can't eat them until they have softened - well, rotted really. The process is called bletting and our medlars are doing just that in our conservatory as I type.
Despite their appearance, I rather like the taste of these strange fruits. The texture of a well bletted medlar is like fudge and the flavour is like stewed apple with a hint of lemon. Traditionally they're eaten with port but they are said to go well with whiskey too - but then, so do most things. I'll be checking out this combination very soon.