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Can you identify this fruit?

unidentified fruit

Jelly making is on hold. I was working today and returned home to roast chicken with all the trimmings. As Danny stirred the gravy, I Googled for pictures of medlars. The few that I found didn’t look a bit like my “medlars”. I have only heard about medlars and seen some line drawings. The cross section of our fruit looks like a medlar. The outside does not.


We tasted the fruit and chilli combination when it was simmering yesterday, without any ill effects (except that it tasted bitter and rather nasty). We both agreed that it might be wise to identify the fruit before I made the jelly. Richard Mabey (Food for Free) gave me no clues. Nor did Google. I am hoping that someone will be able to identify the fruit and set my mind at rest.

The more I look at them the more I think that they are crab apples, I have discovered that they can be this elongated shape. Most were about 1.5 inches/4 cm long. Perhaps you can enlighten me?

My friend Anna gave me some chubby quinces from her tree in her garden Saffron Walden today. And as my fingers fly across the keyboard they are simmering on the stove. She bought the house in the Spring and wondered about the pretty tree. I identified the tree from its leaves as we have a baby quince growing in our garden. Saffron Walden is further south. Our quinces will be ready in a month or so. I will make quince jelly with Anna’s fruit and membrillo with ours.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Thanks, Rosemary, great to know the variety as well.

  2. They are ‘John Downie’ crabapples and make fabulous crabapple jelly.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sara,

    Thanks so much for sending me this link to your post on medlars I’ve included it in my reply as I’m sure others will find it useful.

    Hi Pat,

    Dogs as*! I can see why!

    Hi Amalee Issa,

    Thanks for the link to your beautiful blog. I am impressed that you can even venture to name the variety.

    Hi Celia,

    Thanks for sending me a picture of medlars. I must try and find a tree locally.

    Hi Joanna,

    Good point about the French practice.

    Hi z,

    Thanks for telling me what they taste like.

    Hi Jan,

    Thanks for the confirmation.

  4. Yes, definitely crabs.

  5. I think that to make medlar jelly you use a mixture of bletted and firm fruit. Raw, they are inedible when firm, but once they are soft and almost rotten, they taste rather like overripe apples. They look very rude.

  6. Lovely crabs. Medlars are unmistakeable once you see them, the rude French name comes from their appearance, and Chaucer made allusions to their appearance.

    All the things people say about various fruits improving their taste after frost – I think it’s irrelevant now with our warmer winters. Perhaps we should look at French practice, because they grow a lot of the same things in warmer conditions.


  7. Hi Fiona, this is the same variety of crab apples as ours. They make excellent salmon pink/amber jelly.

    When you mentioned medlars I thought it strange they were ready so early. I think the sort of rotting process they go through before they are edible is called ‘bletting’. There’s a tree in our village (sadly not mine) and a beautiful one in the garden at Gainsborough’s House in Sudbury.

  8. amalee issa

    Fiona, here is a picture of medlars –>

    and I think the variety of crab apple you show is possibly a John Downie, maybe Admiration. The tree shape is a good guide to the variety, although who cares when the crab apple jelly is on the drip!

  9. Hi Fiona, I was going to say crab apple but Sara beat me to it. I saw a program on Medlars the other day and I think you are supposed to leave them until after a frost. That is when they take on their sweetness. The French have a rather rude name for them that translates to Dog’s As*. Think it might have been a Rick Stein programme.

  10. farmingfriends

    Hi Fiona, They are crabapple. I will send you a link to a picture of a medlar as we have both crabapple and medlar.
    Sara from farmingfriends

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