The Japanese medlar
The Latin name is eriobotrya japonica, to testify that indeed it is a plant with Japanese origins; the common name derives from the fact that the small fruits, vaguely reminiscent of apricots, have a taste similar to that of the common European medlar (mespilus germanica).
It is a small evergreen tree, of Asian origin, as we said, now widespread in cultivation all over the globe. It has large oval, pointed, shiny and leathery, wrinkled, dark green leaves, very decorative; in autumn at the apex of the branches it produces inflorescences consisting of small white star-shaped flowers. The flowers give way to fruits the size of a small egg, which have a thin skin and orange, medium aromatic, sweet skin when ripe.
In Italy the medlars are not among the most consumed or most present fruits on the market, they still have some admirers. THE plants of Japanese medlar they are often used in the mixed border, taking advantage of their beauty and elegance, the fruits are a layer that is often not even used; pity because the Japanese medlar It is very prolific, and produces a large amount of fruit, even if left without any kind of care.
Grow Japanese medlar
The Japanese medlar grows like a small tree, with a spherical and broad crown; if we want to cultivate this plant to use its fruits we can grow it low, so as to favor a compact development and make it easier to harvest the fruits.
This tree loves sunny locations, with a loose, very well drained soil; it needs watering only in the period after the plant, and in case of prolonged drought, but in general the adult specimens are satisfied with the water supplied by the weather. In autumn we work the soil at the base of the plant, enriching it with manure.
The medlar trees are rustic plants, which do not fear frost, even if intense.
If we want to enjoy the fruits and live in northern Italy we will have to pay attention to where we plant our tree: this plant, as mentioned before, blooms in autumn or winter, therefore in a cold climate.
If we wish that most of the small fruits are brought to maturity it will be advisable to place our tree in a place sheltered from the cold wind and weather; in general it is sufficient to place it in a place facing south, with the protection of the house behind it.
This is not because the plant fears the cold, but because it is possible that the intense frost or the wind ruin the flowers that have just blossomed, or the ripening fruits.
Who has a Japanese medlar in the family orchard knows from experience that it is not infrequent that the snow settles on the branches of the plant, freezing the unripe fruits, which at the thaw appear as a shapeless pulp and must be removed, to avoid that from the fruits rotting molds and fungi pass to the whole plant.
So if we live in northern Italy and we love medlars or we get used to the fact that sometimes our plant does not produce any fruit, or we prune ourselves, and position the plant in a sheltered place; or we still cultivate the low and compact plant and cover it with non-woven fabric on arrival of the most intense frost.
Japanese medlar: Medlars in the kitchen
Unlike common medlars, le Japanese medlars when ripe they are already edible, have a juicy and fragrant pulp; they are generally consumed raw and fresh, also because they are among the first ripe fruits in the early spring, when the fresh fruits of the Italian garden count only for citrus fruits for months.
For those who like to follow the seasonality of fruit and vegetables, the medlars are certainly a beautiful beginning of spring, because in April-May they are the only plants in the garden (apart from the citrus fruits) to have already ripe fruit.
With medlars, you can actually also produce tasty jams, combining them with cinnamon, lemon or orange; The delicate and not overly aromatic taste makes it an excellent base for jams, to which you can add more fragrant elements with a more characteristic flavor.
With the fruit pits there is also produced a liqueur, called nespolino, fragrant and aromatic.