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Botanical name: Mespilus germanica




The medlar stems from the Caucasus and southeastern Europe, where it was cultivated by the Assyrians. From there it spread to southern, middle and western Europe and then to California and Japan.
Today the medlar is of only little importance for commercial cultivation; it is still a popular food only in Iran. Apart from this, it is grown on a small scale in Italy and Great Britain. In Germany, the medlar is more a garden plant than a fruit for consumption; it is cultivated only by enthusiasts and is otherwise found here and there growing wild.



Because they are not commercially grown in Germany, medlars cannot be found in shops and are only seldom sold at the market; you can only pick them when you happen to see them.
They ripen in September and October, but the fruits cannot be eaten then because the tannins they contain make them very bitter. Only after they have been stored for a long time or following frost, when they begin to rot, are they edible. In Greece, Iran, Italy, Spain, southern France and Turkey, on the other hand, medlars are more often sold at markets.


Appearance, taste, characteristics

Medlars are the small, red-brown to greenish-brown fruits of a small deciduous tree. Like apples and pears, they are a stone fruit. They are very hard and spherical and at one end they appear to be dented. Several small seeds can be seen there. This dented side with the five sepals is the calyx end of the blossom. It is to this feature that the fruit owes its unattractive French name cul de chien, which means in translation 'dog's ass'.

Medlars are not edible until they are over-ripe and begin to rot. Then the pulp becomes soft and the high content of bitter tannins is diminished. When the medlars have arrived at the state of noble rot they taste like dried dates, but they are not as sweet, rather sweet-sour, with a slightly wine-like aroma. Their odour is like cider or must.


In Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Spain and southern France the fruits are usually a bit larger and taste less tart. Although there are no varieties of medlar, they can be differentiated according to type: the apple type with a short stem, the pear type with a longer stem, the Italian October medlar without seeds, and larger, better-tasting cultivated forms.



Medlars contain pectin, a natural gelling agent, and quite large amounts of tannins. These are bitter-tasting, natural tanning agents with an astringent effect. This protects them from plant eaters. They are not unhealthy, but they can cause flatulence and inhibit the resorption of certain pharmaceutical substances by the intestinal mucosa and the resorption of iron.


100 g contain:


Medlar, raw

Energy (kcal)


Water (g)


Protein (g)


Fat (g)


Carbohydrates (g)


Fibre (g)


Vitamin C (mg)


Vitamin A (RE) (µg)


Folic acid (µg)


Potassium (mg)


Sodium (mg)


Calcium (mg)


Magnesium (mg)


Iron (mg)


n.a.*: no data available


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

In order to make them edible, medlars should be spread out on straw after being picked and stored for several weeks in a cool, dry place. During this time the bitter tannins are degraded, while the pulp becomes softer, pastier. When they yield to pressure, the fruits can be eaten. During storage the skin becomes dark-brown and leathery. Some alcohol forms due to the fermentation.

In order to shorten the process, the whole, unripe medlars can also be frozen and then stored for some time at room temperature. The medlars are then eaten with a spoon directly from the skin, or the skin is pulled off at the sepals or at the stem end and they are sucked out. The seeds are not edible.

Jam, purée or jelly can be cooked from medlars. They contain a large amount of pectin, which makes them gel well. However, they require quite a lot of sugar, and quite a lot of time, as not much remains of the small fruits after the stem, skin and seeds are removed, so that a very large number of them must be processed. Made into a sauce, they go well with hearty meat dishes.






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