Re­viv­ing the med­lar

EDP Norfolk - - Food Bites -

A Norfolk busi­ness is bring­ing an an­cient English fruit back to our ta­bles, 2,000 years since the Ro­mans first brought it to our shores. Jane Ste­ward, of East­gate Larder, is grow­ing med­lars on her six-acre plot near Ayl­sham to make fine jelly and fruit cheese.

Jane’s in­ter­est in this ne­glected fruit was sparked by a sin­gle med­lar tree in her hus­band David’s garden, a gift from his fa­ther. While she was re­cu­per­at­ing af­ter suc­cess­ful treat­ment for early-stage bowel cancer, Jane dis­cov­ered the ther­a­peu­tic ben­e­fits of gardening and mak­ing pre­serves.

She re­searched and de­vel­oped recipes, mak­ing the prod­ucts her­self on her Aga at East­gate. She now has a young or­chard of over 100 Not­ting­ham med­lar trees, and is de­vel­op­ing a na­tional col­lec­tion of all avail­able va­ri­eties.

“They have an unc­tu­ous, al­most ex­treme ap­ple but­ter­i­ness to them,” says Jane. “Off the tree they’re like acidic golf balls, but blet­ted [over-ripened] for four to six weeks in cold con­di­tions they be­come soft and beau­ti­ful to eat.”

The med­lar was a sweet win­ter treat in Bri­tain for hun­dreds of years but be­came less pop­u­lar in the early 1900s as other fruit be­came avail­able. Jane be­lieves pas­sion­ately that there is a place at our ta­bles for this tra­di­tional fruit. Her ef­forts earned East­gate a run­ners-up spot in the Nor­wich & Norfolk Eco Awards 2017, Eco Food Pro­ducer cat­e­gory. www.east­gate­

Jane Ste­ward, of East­gate Larder, in her kitchen

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