Cross section of unripe and bletted Mespilus germanica
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mespilus_germanica_01.jpg Author: Takk, picture taken November 1, 2008
Bletting has just begun in one corner.
The fruit is picked in the autumn when the leaves start to fall off the tree. It is recommended to pick them right after the first frost, when they are still hard. The frost is said to help improve the flavor. At this stage, they are both too sour and too hard to eat. The fruit needs to be bletted. The medlars are spread on some type of absorptive material such as straw, sawdust, or bran somewhere cool, and allowed to ripen for several weeks. They will become soft, mushy, brown, sweet and tasty with a flavor close to applesauce or cider.
In Trees and Shrubs, horticulturist F. A. Bush wrote that “if the fruit is wanted it should be left on the tree until late October and stored until it appears in the first stages of decay; then it is ready for eating.” With global warming there is never any frost until well into November these days. I have bought medlars in the first stages of decay and it doesn’t work, they never reach the desirable stage of bletting in the kitchen.
Mespilus is a genus of two species of flowering plants in the family Rosaceae. The one I know, Mespilus germanica (syn. Crataegus germanica), despite its Latin name which means German or Germanic, medlar is indigenous to southwest Asia and also southeastern Europe, especially the Black Sea coasts of Bulgaria and of modern Turkey. The other medlar, Mespilus canescens, was discovered in North America in 1990.
Mespilus germanica, a large shrub or a small tree the fruit of which carries the same name, has an ancient history of cultivation and wild plants exist in a much wider area; it was grown by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Describing someone as medlar faced-‘muşmula suratlı’ in Turkish-means that the person has a permanently sour expression. Perhaps it drives from the fact that while eating medlar one must inevitably make faces.