Nottingham Medlar Trees

Mespilus germanica


Nottingham Medlar Trees are usually grown for their ornamental value these days, even though the fruit were once highly prized. A low spreading self-fertile tree with lovely twisted branches, white flowers and wonderful autumn colour.


Botanical name

Mespilus germanica

Ultimate height and spread

6 metres x 3 metres

When to plant



Medlar Nottingham is the only variety still available for commercial growing, thanks to its well sized fruit, disease resistance and regular harvests. A low spreading tree with lovely twisting branches an,slightly downy pale green foliage, flushed with a hint of rosy pink turning dark green with age. Simple white flowers are carried on the tips of the branches are often surrounded by a halo of leaves, like a white iris in a green eye. In autumn the raised surfaces of the leaves glow with shades of pink, red and orange while the leaf veins hold their green pigment for a bit longer, creating an exotic effect. It is often planted as a specimen tree giving year round interest. They are an easy obliging tree and their fruit is very important to birds and wildlife in late winter.

Nottingham Medlars will grow in any well drained soil and fruit best in full sun. Hardy but the flowers can be damaged by strong, dry winds so choose a sheltered location if you want to ensure a good harvest. Prune your tree diligently for its first four years – you cut back every leading branch by about a third of its new growth from the previous summer, down to an outward facing bud. This will prevent the tree from becoming congested in later life and improve its vigour – unmanaged trees can be prone to growing inwards and rubbing their branches together, which allows disease to enter although they are remarkably disease free. The fruit have to bebletted before they are edible, which is a nice way of saying that they should be kept until are almost rotten and it is this which some people find off putting. A well over-ripe medlar, with its wrinkled brown skin and mushy insides, tastes like gourmet apple and pear sauce that somehow got inside a fruit – sweet, sharp and irresistable.

Extra information. The fruit should part easily from the branches and are ready to be picked and stored between mid-October and early November,. It is a good idea to disinfect them before you store them: simply take a bowl of warm water and stir salt into it until no more will dissolve. Give each fruit a gentle wash. Dry them off well and store them in a cool, dry, dark place with their “eye” facing downwards. Try to prevent the fruit from touching each other – wrap them in newspaper if necessary. Leave them for about three weeks to blet – you know that they are ready when they become soft all over. The longer you leave them, the softer they become, until you can suck the flesh out through the eye, neatly leaving the inedible stones behind – this is medlar heaven. You can also leave them on the tree and pick each one when you see that its skin is wrinkled and turning brown, but this may be quite time consuming with a larger tree – the fruit may also fall off and get poached before you can get to them. If you are impatient to try one, freeze it and let it thaw two or three times – this should speed up the bletting process.

History: Originally from Persia, Medlars became naturalized throughout much of Europe. Theophrastus mentions them in Greece in 300BC and Pliny refers to the Romans having three types of medlarsThe fruit are quite unique and were once considered to be among the finest of delicacies, reserved for those who could afford them. The Romans and ancient Greeks adored them and they are still very popular in Greece, Turkey and the Middle East.

Shakespeare and Chaucer both likened the shape of the fruit to a person’s bottom. In the play Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio teases Romeo about his love for Juliet with an innuendo involving medlars and pears. Possibly, it is laziness, not their appearance, that is the reason that these gorgeous fruit have fallen into obscurity.


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