Consider the Dormant Medlar
Like clockwork, the snow arrived with the new month. Just a dusting on the first, a reminder that the cycle of the seasons keeps on spinning, ready or not. That was the warm-up for the second, when snowfall instead of light greeted my eyes. Big wet fluffy flakes kept coming down and sticking.
What else could I do but take a walk? There was a freshness and stillness in the air that excited me terribly. Enter winter! I enjoy letting myself fall into a state of modified hibernation. Sleep is to be encouraged and savored, plans for the weekend kept to a minimum, quiet indoor pursuits preferred. It is time to pause, to listen, to find my own rhythm again.
On the walk, I paid my regards to the medlar tree whose fruits we had gathered throughout November. There were still a few medlars dangling from the top branches, out of reach for short wingless beings like myself. A little over a week ago, TC had shook the tree and I had lunged to gather the fallen fruit. With bottles of medlar jam and chutney now keeping the other preserves on the shelves company, our harvesting work is done for this year.
Mespilus germanica originated in southwest Asia and southeast Europe. Once again, we have the Romans to thank for introducing it to points further north. Charlemagne includes the medlar in his list of plants to be grown on his estates. Like certain persimmon varieties, medlars need to undergo a fermentation process called bletting before they are comestible. As fermentation releases sugars, the hard fruit softens and sweetens. Medlars will do this on their own as temperatures drop, turning mushy inside after a hard frost.
If you are an impatient forager, medlars can be picked while still hard and then stored until they ripen. Traditionally they were laid on beds of straw. The medlars in the bowl above were ready to eat after a little over a week at room temperature. We paired ours with slices of smoked scamorza, an Italian cow’s milk cheese similar to mozzarella, remembering too late that port wine is also supposed to go well with medlars. We’ve also been adding stewed medlars to oatmeal.
The slow-growing medlar tree with her hard wood has kept her promise to blossom, bear fruit, and shed her leaves; she can now enjoy the rest that winter imposes upon her. I, on the other hand, still have miles to go today before I can devote myself to quiet indoor pursuits. How I envy the orchard.