Fruit and Vegetables

The Medlars

The Medlars

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The fruits of two different species of plants are commonly called loquats, the first is a fruit tree of central European origin, the Mespilus germanica, with brown fruits, at autumn maturation; the other is a plant of central Asian origin, now widespread in much of the globe, the eriobotrya japonica, with orange fruits, which ripen in early spring. The reason why both fruits share the same common name is quite obscure, since the plants do not resemble each other at all, not belonging to the same family, and even the fruits do not resemble each other, if not perhaps slightly in the aroma given off by the pulp .

Mespilus germanica

Let's start with the most forgotten plant to describe its cultivation; in fact it is a native European plant, so in Italy it should not have special needs, even if in fact it is more suitable for cultivation in the central north, while in the south it happens to be ruined by the spring and summer heat, producing few fruits.
it is a small tree, very pleasant, with roundish foliage and beautiful star-shaped flowers in late spring, of a pure white color. The medlar produces many flowers, which make it very pleasant even as an ornamental plant; located in the garden, in a sunny area; only the young specimens need fertilizing and watering in the first years of life. Adult plants tend to be satisfied with the water received from the weather and not to require large amounts of mineral salts from the soil. Even the most neglected plants produce many fruits; the fruits are bronze-colored, roundish, the size of a golf ball, and equally compact and hard.

Cultivation mespilus germanica

The fruits of this medlar are not edible for harvesting, on the contrary they are hard, with a sour taste, which licks the teeth; in order to eat them they must be placed in straw or near apples or bananas, until they acquire a soft consistency. At this point the orange colored pulp becomes sweet and aromatic.
It is difficult to produce jams or marmalades with medlars, also because the fruits collected but not left to keep are kept for months if kept in a cool and sheltered place.
These medlars are difficult to find on the market, perhaps because it is simpler to buy fruits of pseudo-exotic origin, or perhaps because the practice of mixing is not appreciated by most consumers, in fact even khaki, which need similar treatment before to be consumed, it seems to be receiving less and less success from year to year.

Medlars: Eriobotrya japonica

Small evergreen tree, belonging to the Rosaceae family; it has large characteristic leaves, of dark green color, very corrugated, quite leathery.
During the cold months it produces innumerable white star flowers, gathered in inflorescences at the apex of the branches; flowering generally occurs between November and January, depending on the climate; it happens that even in the same place the flowering takes place in different periods from year to year, depending on the course of the seasons.
In spring it ripens small round fruits, the size of golf balls, orange-colored, with a smooth skin, and a sweet pulp, which are eaten raw, or used for jams or juices.
The Japanese medlar is widely cultivated in Italy, also because it often finds a place among the plants of the mixed border, and sometimes the fruits are not even collected.
It needs to be placed in a sunny place; it does not offer any particular cultivation problems, especially when the plant has been planted for a long time; it tends to bear cold and heat well, and also drought.
It does not need large pruning, maintaining a round and well-harmonious crown, it is unlikely to exceed 4-5 meters in height during its life.
The main problem for those who want to cultivate loquats consists in the flowering period: often snowfalls or intense frosts in November-December completely ruin the flowering, thus also preventing fruiting.
For this reason, those who want to grow medlar trees to obtain many fruits, especially in northern Italy, should place the plant in a place sheltered from the most intense frost and winter wind.