The medlars had begun their bletting; remember this?The 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;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………
Tree 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