Just say 'no' to Medlars

Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)December 7, 2006

I am about to yank up my two medlars (Breda Giant and Royal) but wanted to check first if anyone had a reason to talk me out of it. I found the taste perfectly fine, something like spiced apple sauce, but the amount of "goo" in each fruit was just so small. I had no more than a teaspoon or two of goo per fruit. The fruit themselves are the size of ping-pong balls, but they have a big indentation at the calyx and some very large seed cavities. So there just isn't much fruit there. Am I missing something?

On the other hand from my unusual fruits I have found my jujubes and quinces to be very worthwhile this year. If you have any inclination to cook the quince is wonderfully tasty and flexible. It can be added to any fruit anything and will improve the flavor. The trees are also easier to grow than apples. Medlars are also pretty easy to grow and are more attractive trees than apples, but their stingy productivity is just not up to snuff.


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ashok_ncal(CA z9b)

Hmmmn ... a reason to keep the medlars ...

Perhaps you could set aside a portion of your yard as a "themed" Medieval cloister garden. The medlars would fit in perfectly there!

You and your family might dress in appropriate period costume and give tours -- it could be a tourist attraction!

I also envision an adjoined concession-stand featuring medlar-based treats for the enjoyment of visitors -- medlar sno-cones, funnel-cakes, etc. Why, the sky is the limit!

Oh, what's that, you want some serious suggestions? I'll have to get back to you ...

    Bookmark   December 7, 2006 at 8:22PM
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Were I you, I would topwork the major limbs over to pear using Old Home as the transition wood. So spring of 2008 your final pear cultivars go on. Why waste all that good root in the ground?

I also have some ideas what pears are very interesting yet totally undiscovered by the commercial world that would do well for you.

I could send you enough Old Home to get you started.

Email me if you are interested.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2006 at 9:04PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Others decribe it as "apricot jam". A late friend used to go all the way down to the local arboretum to gather them from the ground and bring them home to process them. If you aren't as enamored of the flavor, don't care about the visual effect produced by the tree then there probably is no point in having them.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2006 at 12:10AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Ashok, what great ideas! I'll be rich!!

Seriously, I should say that the flavor is quite nice, and it is more intense than your average applesauce. But if you cooked down the apples a little bit further, say halfway to apple butter, you would about be there. It does have a touch of an apricot flavor to it, but I would say that apricot jam is a lot better. If the fruit were bigger or didn't require so much work to blet and then scoop out such a meager amount I would say I would like to keep it.

Plumfan, I thought about grafting something on to it but I am more in need of room for apples than pears now. My understanding is that medlar is compatible with pear and quince. In any case I would always like to hear about your unusual pears, I have 35 varieties of unusual pears now and am always looking for others (click on my page to see the list).


    Bookmark   December 8, 2006 at 9:11AM
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The hardest and most necessary decision to make in business and gardening is to cut a loss. A sense of humor like Ashok's definitely helps the process.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2006 at 11:42AM
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ashok_ncal(CA z9b)

In all seriousness --

The medlar is a fruit with an ancient horticultural lineage, so it is kind of surprising that the cultivated form hasn't been more improved by this time. Characteristics like fruit-size and volume-of-usable-pulp are obvious targets for selection, and so I wonder why the collective efforts of past generations of fruit gardeners didn't bring the species closer to the level of quality (from a human perspective) of its cousins, the apple and pear. (It's like everyone just sort of shrugged and said "Eh, it's good enough as it is" sometime around the mid-Renaissance or whenever.)

But you know, this occurs to me about any number of minor fruits -- that they could be so much better if only more selection work had been done on them over the past few thousand years. (After all, consider how far removed a "Fuji" apple is from some ancestral crab-apple...)

For example, I just had a very interesting discussion with Bboy, here on this forum, concerning the *extremely* minor fruit Luma apiculata. L. apiculata is a beautiful Myrtaceous tree with a small edible berry, and there seems to be some real potential in the germplasm for a more worthwhile orchard crop -- but the potential remains largely unrealized.

According to Wikipedia (behold my awesome researching abilities!), the species L. apiculata originates in the central Andean mountains.

So what *I* want to know is, why weren't those darn pre-Columbian Incas putting some intensive efforts into improving the plant! They should have been putting more person-hours into horticultural work, rather than piling up rocks in places like Machu Picchu! We might have super-tasty Luma apiculata fruits as big as golf-balls if they had "gotten with the program" centuries ago!

So, to summarize, there you are, my philosophy of life: when in doubt, blame our ancestors! After all, they can't fight back!

Ah well ... now that I've firmly established my crank-dom before the *entire* "Gardenweb -- Fruit & Orchards" community ... I will attempt, in closing, to honor the concept of "staying on topic" ...

... which was, oh yes, medlars ...

Medlars do have a very interesting place in horticultural history, and it seems to me that there is at least some real utility in growing fruits or plants that evoke other places and times. So I guess that's the best argument I can come up with for growing them, if you don't actually like *eating* them: antiquarianism.

But somehow I doubt this will change your mind ... and, given that you don't have unlimited space to work with, I suppose that pragmatism should prevail.

(For the record, I'm very interested in history, and I am probably generally quite prone to being influenced by historical-horticultural associations. I will admit that I am one of those folks who planted a "Spitzenberg" apple because I was bedazzled by the purported Thomas Jefferson connection ... if some new story started circulating to the effect that, say, a particular old plum cultivar had been positively identified as Benjamin Franklin's favorite plum, I would probably feel a strong desire to grow it as well.)

1 Like    Bookmark   December 9, 2006 at 2:27AM
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tampopo(z6 Ohio)

If you don't like/appreciate them, give them away to someone who does. If I weren't something like 8+ hrs. away from you and the ground weren't solid, I'd come out and take them off your hands myself. My late uncle had medlars, grafted onto a quince, and I wish to God I had some here. I think the main reason they haven't caught on is because people don't know them (they aren't big colorful hard things that you can pick unripe and keep on supermarket shelves for a million years, so they aren't intere$ting to markets; most people say BLEAH! about quince because they don't know them, either. Just bake the damn things or sauce them like apples, and voila, Tasty Quince. Even better with pork than applesauce, IMO). OK, the medlars weren't much bigger than a ping-pong ball, so? Me, I'd much rather have some ribs, with less meat and more work(--but _way_ tastier) than a steak.
Please, find them a good home! :-(

    Bookmark   December 9, 2006 at 12:55PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

My Medlar is 'Large Russian' and has fruit about the size of a tangerine. I have yet to find a way of eating them that I like. I have tried them bletted and as jelly. However, I am not about to chop it down as it has a curious gnarled habit, attractive flowers and fruit and spectacular Autumn colour (butter yellow). It is also a talking point for visitors. Best of all it appears to have no pests or diseases and requires no care whatsoever.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2006 at 1:44PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Better forms may be developed and then lost to disruptions like wars or aging and death of the originator. Even when propagated and dispersed these may still not become prevalent because of difficulties with large scale propagation or lack of interest from the market. Minor fruits do not have the same commerical potential as orchard fruits like apples. Comparatively few may be willing to pay the much higher purchase price of a named, grafted medlar, feijoa or even pawpaw. These exist but you don't see them every day. With the feijoa in particular there have been post(s) on this site asking where to buy certain named forms, as these seem to quite rare in commerce. I continue to read tags of the many specimens I encounter in nurseries here these days. They are always unselected seedlings.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2006 at 2:21PM
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ashok_ncal(CA z9b)


Excellent points, all.

Here in California, LaVerne Nursery distributes several feijoa cultivars (Coolidge, for one) fairly extensively.

But there are numerous other cultivars beyond the ones carried by LaVerne, and they are not readily available. Some of them may be available through specialty nurseries in Southern California, but not all of those nurseries will ship plants. (And the cost of getting a plant shipped-in from a significant distance may deter many.)

Many rare cultivars may be most readily available through hobbyist circles. I've gotten plants of several fairly rare feijoa cultivars through our local California Rare Fruit Growers group.

In fact, one of our local members has quite an extensive feijoa cultivar collection -- about a dozen different varieties, I think. But he's an older gentleman, and he is now in the process of giving up his house and garden -- so I'm trying to propagate some of the selections that he has, to keep them in our local hobbyist circles.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2006 at 6:56PM
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That feijoa collection is a gold mine.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2006 at 8:37PM
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nygardener(z6 New York)

Feijoas are mighty tasty. Too bad it's too cold here to grow them.

About those medlars to extract the pulp with less work, can you run them through a food mill, maybe after steaming or simmering them to soften them up?

    Bookmark   December 17, 2006 at 10:31AM
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squeeze(z8 BC)

juice'em - noisey but good yields of tasty nectar-style juice


    Bookmark   December 17, 2006 at 7:55PM
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zootjs(zone 5 MA)

Hi Scott,

Say you went on a two-hour flight. There were two empty seats, each paired with a person who looked cut from pretty much the same mold.

Would you rather sit with the guy who happens to be growing two medlar trees or the guy who isn't?

That's my question to you.

(Grower of only one medlar tree, but it hasn't fruited yet.)

    Bookmark   April 6, 2007 at 10:15PM
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emilyg(z5 Chicago)

Gosh. I didn't even know about this fruit! Why would you get rid of it, since it's already a mature plant producing fruit???? If you don't like it, then perhaps you just need an appreciative someone to take the fruit off your hands.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 2:25PM
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instar8(Z 5 N.IN)

As Mercutio said to Benvolio in discussing Romeo's dilemma....

If love be blind, love cannot hit the mark.
Now will he sit under a medlar tree
And wish his mistress were that kind of fruit
As maids call medlars when they laugh alone.
O, Romeo, that she were, O that she were
An open et cetera, thou a pop'rin pear!
ROMEO, good night. I'll to my truckle-bed;
This field-bed is too cold for me to sleep.
Come, shall we go?

(open et cetera= "open arse", the common name of Medlar, and a testimony to the lack of anatomical knowledge in those days)

I bought a Medlar just cause I like such private jokes in my garden...and cause they're pretty. ;~)


    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 3:31PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Jonathan, I'd prefer to sit next to the guy that tried the medlar and dug it up after he decided he didn't like it :-)

I am going to graft most of the trees over to pears in a week or two but will leave a few medlar branches just for curiosities. I was going to dig them up last winter but I went out there with the shovel and the trees just looked so nice I couldn't dig 'em up. They have a wonderful shape. They are very nice trees as ornamentals, maybe they will catch on that way someday. Plus a little squeeze or two of fruit as a bonus.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 10:01PM
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emilyg(z5 Chicago)

Hey, could you post a picture of what the tree looks like?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 8:57PM
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emilyg(z5 Chicago)

No pics? Pretty, pretty please?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 10:35PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Emily, I'll try to take one soon, they are about to bloom. I didn't end up grafting them to pears, I thought I had done it but apparently forgot to! Thats what happens when you get too many things to graft.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2007 at 11:21PM
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emilyg(z5 Chicago)

That would be great. I only could find a few pictures out on the web. From what I could see the tree DOES look interesting, but most of the pictures were pretty crappy.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2007 at 12:46PM
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Hell, I wish I could get to them.

A very strange way to prepare them is pickled. I know that sounds very strange and I'd have to get my wife to tell more on it but while we still were in Macedonia some Turkish ladies my wife was teaching had them as part of their mezze. I only had one she brought back but it was sooooo gooooood.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 2:00PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Emily, I still owe you some pictures. I took a few awhile back but I didn't think they showed a whole lot but here they are anyway. One of the whole tree and one of a flower. The flowers are pretty big compared to most fruit flowers but it is hard to tell from the pictures. These are planted in a 3'-spaced row. Hopefully you can at least see how nice the branching structure is.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 10:12PM
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emilyg(z5 Chicago)


I hadn't checked this thread in awhile; I thought you had forgotten (sniff).

Now I want one of these trees! I'll take a yanked up one!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 7:30PM
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bumping this one back up.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 6:48AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

While this is bumped up I can add a few more comments. I still have my medlar, singular now as one tree died from fireblight. This year I just left the fruits on the tree where they bletted themselves, so every time I walk by it I grab a few and suck out the innerds. I also learned that is a good way to eat them, just bite the end, suck it out and throw away the rest. I am a little more positive on the fruit since I got a bigger crop this year and am not bothering with the hassle of bletting, but on the other hand the moths seem to love it quite dearly so it is yet another tree I need to spray or bag.

BTW the latest issue of the CRFG Fruit Gardener magazine covers medlars in detail.


    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 1:47PM
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austransplant(MD 7)


While visiting family in Australia this Christmas I tried some of my sister-in-law's homemade medlar jelly. It tasted great. So I'm glad I put in a medlar last year, but not so happy to hear your reports on disease and insects. I had thought medlars were meant to be relatively trouble free.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2008 at 2:27PM
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It's a handsome tree. I probably won't grow one myself, but I'm glad to know about it.


    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 11:45AM
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I have lived in North America over forty years and of all the fruits I tasted as a young girl before I came here medlar remains a favorite. I can't grow it where I live but I remember the taste.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2008 at 8:47PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

This is my 'Large Russian' just leafing out. As you can see it is just in an ordinary garden, not an orchard. Being in a restricted position it has been cut back many times and is showing the medlar's weird habit of the new growth always setting off at roughly 90 degrees the the previous branch. Persoanlly I like this erratic habit. Like Scott, I too am more positive about the fruit as I had several quite pleasant ones last year which had bletted themselves. This variety has fairly large fruit for a medlar - about the size of a tangerine.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2008 at 10:00AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I just grafted half of my medlar to "Puciu Big" which according to the folks in CRFG is the biggest and best variety. If it is a lot bigger it may just make this medlar business worthwhile.


    Bookmark   April 24, 2008 at 10:38AM
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where do I get these weird medlar varieties? I hear "large russian" is the largest-fruited. And what is this "Puciu big"? Scottfsmith, where did you find it?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2008 at 10:23PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

I actually don't know if its the biggest, I should have said "one of the biggest". I got it from a friend but you can also get it through the ARS germplasm system. Or ask me next year.


    Bookmark   April 24, 2008 at 11:10PM
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zootjs(zone 5 MA)

I am so relieved you didn't yank your tree! Sorry to hear abou t the fireblight.

My tree fruited last year and I made various delicious things with the medlars. Well, one delicious thing. The pie wasn't that great, but the medlar paste (aka, cheese) was a real hit.

Ancient recipe attached, though I cut a lot of corners. Basically, I just simmered them in a normal pot until soft, ran them through the foodmill on my Kitchen Aide (I want to get a food mill, next year), added sugar and allspice, and then slowly cooked it down until it was paste. Then put it in chocolate molds, and voila. They were truly delicious, and a unique taste contribution to the Thanksgiving table.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2008 at 11:06AM
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Does anyone have any information on where to get a medlar tree down in Southern California, namely in the Los Angeles metropolitan area? My hotmail account starts with "usmen" or I am frequent on the Amaryllis/Hippeastrum forum.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 9:44PM
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Axel(12b/Sunset H2)

I don't think any nurseries carry them, so you will have to mailorder. I recommend you order it from Raintree, that's where I got mine.

Although I am on the fence about keeping it. I may start grafting pears onto it as well and keep a few branches. They are interesting, but more of a novelty than something you want to eat a lot of.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 10:30PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Just to show you the fruit of 'Large Russian'. These are some which I found on the ground today. Not the best specimens but they show the size.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 4:25PM
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Wow, that Large Russian is one heck of a medlar. And here I thought I was going to be getting big ones with the Monstrueuse de Evreinoff I just ordered from Raintree. Guess I'll take what I can get though.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2008 at 9:07PM
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I have the Nottingham Medlar, I grafted it onto the native hawthorne root which works pretty well. Would like to try some of the other selections, if I could find a source for scionwood to trade with. They graft very easily like apple or pear, and the trees are a nice compact size, like an Italian Plum but much more spreading and with a zig zag irregular growth habit.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2008 at 1:21PM
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plase help me find IRANIAN MEDLAR in Chicago area!medlar or musmula is part of my childhood in EKS Jugoslavia and I like a taste very much!! PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Bookmark   May 27, 2009 at 4:03PM
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If you want to pay shipping and order online, Pars Produce carries a "Persian" one called Azgil.

Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   May 27, 2009 at 5:30PM
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hey Vesna, i got some from Banja Luka and they are very sweet and productive, good luck (sretno)

    Bookmark   May 28, 2009 at 8:01AM
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Hey, I just put an order together with Breda Giant Medlar on it, the photo is beautiful..can't wait to grow them even if the birds are all that eat them. The taste sounds delicious..at least if there wasn't anything else to eat you wouldn't starve..takes years to grow new fruit trees..of course I have a lot of acerage

    Bookmark   January 5, 2012 at 3:32PM
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I'm in New Jersey (7a; 6b) and will be growing 'Nottingham' medlar. Some report it as 'the best' (same description applies on occasion for 'Royal' as well), whereas other's among the worst (those in conditions where the fruit rots fast, I suppose - due to the very open end.

What are recent opinions of 'Nottingham' and others.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2012 at 9:47PM
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chervil2(z5 MA)

I have Nottingham and based on the discussion above I think it represents another medlar. I enjoy the flowers and fall foliage. I like to show off that I have one. However, the last time I actually ate one was many years ago! The 2011 Halloween snow storm damaged the medlar extensively. However, the tree appears to be recovering okay. Overall, I am happy I have the tree.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 9:03PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

NJBio, it looks like you missed the title of this thread :-)

I see I have not updated my medlar status recently. My Puciu Big was getting horrible fireblight, so I took it down to its quince rootstock and grafted some pears onto that. I now have no medlars.

Chervil, you have the right attitude about medlars: they are a beautiful tree and an interesting conversation piece, and thats about it.


    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 9:30PM
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austransplant(MD 7)

I must admit that while I live in the same general part of the country as Scott (outside DC), I have not had much of a problem with fireblight on my two medlar trees. I got a few minor strikes this year, after 3 years with nothing, but had much greater problems on my apples. In general the medlars have been pretty trouble free. The main problem they have is that the fruit will tend to split well before it ripens if we get a lot of heavy rain in spring, as we often do here in MD. But this year I got a quite large crop. And they are pretty trees.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 10:28PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Thats interesting, my medlars never split and we obviously get similar weather. My medlar fireblight problem may have been due to their direct adjacency to quince - you can see a quince branch in the picture above in fact. Now that my quince are gone perhaps a medlar would do better. It would still need sprays for bugs, my fruits were always worm-filled. I was also starting to get quince rust on them. Unlike CAR that disease ruins the fruits, it is much worse.


    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 11:17PM
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armyofda12mnkeys(7a, Philly, PA)

Man I wish I could find my medlars. First year and have 15+ fruit, but they were rock hard so I put them somewhere outside to blet naturally but forget where,... or something came and ate my rock hard fruit without any trace lol. Darn was really hoping to try a medlar for 1st time.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 6:11PM
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