Medlars; the moment of truth?

The medlars had begun their bletting; remember this?Bletting MedlarsThe two medlars on the left of the photo appeared to be fully bletted (rotted), so I cut one of them in half and discovered this;Are you ready?Gulp……am I really going to eat this?…. why, yes, but not in one gulp!  I take my most elegant teaspoon (so I can convince myself I am tasting something gorgeous and unrotten) and scrape out a small amount of the soft, thick, apple sauce textured flesh. I  gingerly place the morsel  in my mouth……to search for  the moment of  truth; to understand the essence of medlar.    Mmmmmm……Mmmmmm?  Doesn’t smell bad; doesn’t smell anything. Doesn’t taste bad, but how does it taste?  Like a floury, very ripe crab apple, minus any of the sharpness of apple, and steeped with the spices of mulled wine?  Possibly……but there’s another taste that is tickling my tongue; a taste that has been lost with time. Another delicate scrape licked from the spoon and, suddenly, my senses are whiplashed back through five decades, to a place and time about as far removed from my present placing as one can get.  I am in the warm tropics, in the tiny town of my birth. I am with my friend Julie, under the tamarind tree by her garden gate. It is tamarind season and we are sampling the tamarinds. We open the dry pods and suck on the sour, sticky, date-brown pulp, delighting in its acidity. We delight, too, in spitting the big seeds once we have sucked all the flesh from them.  We feel free, and adventurous, gathering sustenance from the ‘wild’. Sometimes, we find a tamarind that is riper than the others. It has a faint mustiness, an otherness to it; not unpleasant, not sweet, not sour, but we toss it aside because it is the sour fruit we crave.

So, a medlar tastes like a tamarind? In a way, yes. A little bit; like one of the musty, over ripe tamarinds, devoid of any hint of sourness.  That is where my taste bud inventory took me; back to the tamarind tree. But, whether or not  it is more like a floury crab apple or a musty tamarind, or a combination of both, it is assuredly an ancient flavour; in the same way as the flavours of the crab apple and the tamarind belong to the ancient realms.  The medlar’s taste belongs to the ages, and, like the best of fine whisky, or aged cheese, needs to be savoured gently to appreciate its uniqueness. That I can vouch for.

Now that I have thoroughly confused you about the flavour of medlars, here’s a photo with a hint of what I am going to do with them next………

Time for the next stepTree notes: If you would like to know more about the tamarind tree, this link to Kew Gardens provides excellent information  http://www.kew.org/plants-fungi/Tamarindus-indica.htm

© silkannthreades

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54 thoughts on “Medlars; the moment of truth?

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes it is amazing. I don’t think you will be growing a medlar in your garden any time soon, but it is a fascinating fruit/tree. I wonder if you know the Pineapple Guava aka Feijoa that I wrote about in one of my other posts? And the Chilean Guava, or New Zealand Cranberry ,is another popular plant (in NZ) that I have in my garden.

      Reply
  1. The House of Bethan

    I think you were very brave to sample that Gallivanta … and I LOVED the way the flavour whip lashed you back to your Tamarind Tasting. My best friend was called Julie when I was young. xx

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      🙂 I nearly didn’t dare! You can see how unattractive the medlar looks! Yes, I always wonder what happened to Julie. Do you still have contact with your Julie?

      Reply
      1. The House of Bethan

        It looked dreadfully unattractive … almost like an apple that a wasp had been eating. In fact, I wasn’t quite sure what it was when I began reading your post. I still have sort of contact with my Julie. When I was travelling in India 12 years ago I woke up from a dream of pure childhood nostalgia. I jumped out of bed, grabbed some paper and started to write to her via her parent’s address from years ago. Miraculously her father was still there. We reconnected and she came to my wedding. I haven’t heard from her in a while now though. What about yours? xx

        Reply
  2. leapingtracks

    So glad you were not writing your post from the hospital after all 🙂 and that everything turned out fine in the end! It just goes to show that one should never judge a book by its cover

    Reply
  3. Clanmother

    Ah…I was licking the spoon with you! What is it about tastes and memories? Just the other day I was in a specialty chocolate shop having sample tastes (there are no calories in samples). One had lemongrass in the chocolate. It took me back to another time!!!
    A wonderful post! Truly a joy to stop by!

    Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Oh, I am so pleased. I found that site quite by chance and fell in love with it. And, all morning, I have been waiting for a moment to get to the computer to ask if you knew this wonderful place. And you do, and you answered my question before I asked it!!!!! I am doing a highland fling of joy.

        2. Clanmother

          My son plays the bagpipes at the garden to celebrate the blooming of the heather on a specially designated weekend. (Only once a year). He leads a group around the trails of blooming heather. Every once in a while they stop to listen to a master gardener talk about the different kinds of heather. Evidently there are many varieties. Every year, we hope for sunshine. So far it has always been sunshine and blue skies…

  4. aleafinspringtime

    One of the loveliest snippet of a memoir of a tamarind tree and the taste that lingers on from our childhood. Beautiful writing Gallivanta. I have never heard of the medlar much less its taste. But tamarind I know. Thank you for the association. I look forward for more – medlars and memories. Sharon

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you. And I just realised that I have given you a few more childhood memories that you suggested I write when I commented on one of your posts about your childhood experiences!

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      And I know you are going to rush out and plant some medlars when you get home 🙂 Apparently the tree and the blossom are very attractive. The look of the fruit is something, as they say, only a mother could love!

      Reply
  5. utesmile

    It does not look that appetising, but I would have tried it too. It looks mushy what I like really. As i never heard of Tamarind either this is totally new for me. Glad you tried it for us! 🙂

    Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          I would love to have you come by, but I would also love to visit Kew Gardens which seems to know everything about plants that needs to be known. And remember you were the one who educated me about the mirabella plums!

        2. utesmile

          You are right, Kew is at the opposite end of town of where I live but it is worth a visit. I should go again some time and take pictures and make a post. It was ages when I went when the boys were younger. It is on my list again.Thank you!

  6. valeriedavies

    fascinating…and interesting how one forgets tastes… I’ve forgotten the taste of the little red rambutans we used to eat in Malaya as a child… your memories set off mine, and also set me wandering down the culinary avenues of childhood, even to the liquoricy taste of the seeds of Queen Anne’s Lace, which stained our teeth black !!!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      It is decades since I last tasted a tamarind so I was truly astonished at the connection I made to them. It seems we have both enjoyed a rich tasting history! However, I have not tried the seeds of Queen Anne’s Lace.

      Reply
  7. Virginia Duran

    I couldn’t agree more, taste and smell brings us back in time. Such powerful senses! You are building a story with these. Can’t wait to read the next chapter!

    Reply
  8. ordinarygood

    Nice post. You really did “time travel” back to the tamarind tree with the watchful eye of the aged but reliable clock assisting you. Did Grandma live near the tamarind tree too?

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      🙂 It is strange what a little ‘wild’ fruit will do to one. I hasten to add that, although the fruit was mature, it was not fermented!

      Reply
  9. Sheryl

    It’s interesting how the taste took you back to a different fruit and time. I think that people appreciated a much wider range of tastes and flavors years ago when more wild foods were eaten. Sometimes I think that we’ve lost something.

    Reply

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