First fruits

No, this is not about religious offerings, but about a first encounter.  Are there others out there who have never seen or heard of this tree and its fruit?


A couple weeks ago I was taking photos of the bright red leaves on a sassafras street tree at the corner of N. Haight and N. Blandena, when I noticed a strange persimmon tree in the front yard just behind.


No, not persimmon — the fruit is more brown than orange, and smaller.  The leaves are more narrowly elliptical.  OK, actually nothing like a persimmon.  Turns out it’s a medlar, Mespilus germanica, a non-commercial fruit not well known in the US, although cultivated for thousands of years.  According to Wikipedia this small tree is native to southwestern Asia and southeastern Europe.  It has a N. American relative, Mespilus canescens, which is known from a grove of 25 specimens in Arkansas.  Interesting details, including it’s recent discovery (1990) and status can be found at The Center for Plant Conservation.


According to the Hoyt Arboretum plant database map, there are two of these trees planted along the Marquam Trail, just behind the World Forestry Center.  New discoveries waiting to happen right under my nose — this happens to be a few hundred feet from where I parked my car almost daily during the school year for 7 years.

Descriptions of the fruit I’ve found on line say they taste like cinnamon applesauce.  Fruit is ripened by frost or in storage, “bletted” which as near as I can tell basically means “rotten”  — very soft and squishy.  Here’s a blog post on Root Simple about harvesting and tasting.  Has anyone tasted a medlar?

  • Deciduous small tree/large shrub hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9
  • Full sun and moist, well-drained soil
  • plum-sized fruit, resembling a large rose hip
  • in the Rose family, Rosaceae, closely related to hawthorne
  • Good fall foliage – red, yellow


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3 Responses to First fruits

  1. Wow that’s a new one on me! (not that I’m exactly an expert) I like the foliage too.

  2. Ricki Grady says:

    Pistils garden store had medlar trees for sale. I was tempted, but something else upstaged them, I guess. A Herod’s cook book I have praises the fruit.

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