A MEDIEVAL foodstuff, largely forgotten over the years, is to be resurrected in the fields of Abergavenny.

Chairman of Monmouthshire County Council, Mat Feakins, has taken a step back in time to plant one of the countries largest commercial orchards of medlars - a fruit which must begin to rot before it can be eaten.

Once incredibly important and highly prized in the British diet up to Elizabethan times, medlars were the last sweet fruit going into winter before sugar became widely available.

A close relative of the rose, crab apple and quince, the medlar tree has a fruit that resembles a persimmon, picked in October or November, usually after the first frost. 

The fruit cannot be eaten straight away - it is too full of acids and tannins, making it unpleasant.

It must go through a process known as bletting, a word derived from the French “poire blette”, meaning overripe pear.

Medlars are harvested and stored somewhere cool for several weeks, allowing the bletting process to get underway. The fruit starts to rot, replacing acids and tannins with sugar, only then making the fruit edible.


Once bletted, medlar fruit smell like ripe apples with a deep honey sweetness, the texture is like a grainy apple sauce and tastes somewhere between overripe dates, custard and caramel.

Rather less appetisingly, the fruit has a somewhat unusual name - called 'openaers' in old English. Modern translations move the second 'e' to the end of the word...

In French they are called cul de chien (dogs bottom) "cu d'singe" (monkey's bottom) or "cu d'ane" (donkey's bottom). Clearly, there is a running theme which crosses the language divide.

Cllr Feakins said: "Traditionally, the fruit has mostly been turned into cheeses or jellies - some of our fruit will follow those paths, but we are growing on a commercial basis for an alcoholic drink.

"Its important to keep these stories alive and to keep our historic traditions going.

"More people are sourcing locally grown and unique products. Our farm is on the edge of Abergavenny, the food capital of Wales, so we couldn’t have a better location to act as a springboard. 

"It’s been a real family and friends’ effort to get the planting done on time. 

"It’s no longer adequate to just talk about increasing biodiversity - we must act, and this is how we can help. 

"Our orchards should last for 150 years and create some of the most diverse habitats that we know."