Latin name: Mespilus germanica
Synonyms: Pyrus germanica
Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)
Medicinal use of Medlar:The pulp of the fruit is laxative. The leaves are astringent. The seed is lithontripic. It is ground up for use, but caution should be employed since the seeds contain the toxin hydrocyanic acid. The bark has been used as a substitute for quinine, but with uncertain results.
Description of the plant:
Habitat of the herb:Woods and hedgerows.
Edible parts of Medlar:Fruit - raw or cooked. The fruit does not always ripen fully in cooler temperate zones such as Britain. However it can be harvested in late autumn (preferably after it has had some frost) whilst still hard and then needs to be bletted before it can be eaten raw. This entails storing it, stalk end upwards, in a cool place for a short while until it is on the point of (but not quite) rotting, a state described as incipient decay. At this stage the flesh turns from white to brown, becomes very soft and is quite sweet with an absolutely delicious flavour that somewhat resembles a luscious tropical fruit. The fruit of the wild species is up to 25mm in diameter, though some cultivars can be 65mm or more in diameter.
Other uses of the herb:Wood - hard, flexible.
Propagation of Medlar:Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in late autumn in a cold frame. The seed has a very hard and impermeable seedcoat and will not usually germinate until it has gone through two winters. Commercially, such seeds are soaked for a short while in sulphuric acid to break down the seed coat and allow the seed to take up moisture, this is a very delicate procedure and difficult to do on a small scale. A home gardener could try soaking the seed for 24 hours in warm water then cold stratifying it for 2 - 3 months at 1 - 5°C before sowing it. Alternatively, if you can harvest the seed green (as soon as it is mature but before the seed coat has dried and hardened), then sow it immediately in a cold frame you might reduce the time needed for it to germinate. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of mature wood, November in a cold frame. Poor percentage. Layering in autumn or early spring. Takes 18 months.
Cultivation of the herb:Woods and hedgerows.
Known hazards of Mespilus germanica:The seeds contain the toxic hydrocyanic acid (the substance that gives almonds their flavour) and should not be eaten in quantity.
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.