Reviving the medlar
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.eastgatelarder.co.uk
Jane Steward, of Eastgate Larder, in her kitchen