The Cottage Smallholder

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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. The one with tiny golden fruits sounds like it might be “Golden Hornet”. Bright golden slightly larger than a cherry-sized fruits useless to man and beast alike- even the birds don’t like them- but the colour is stunning.
    Your other tree sounds a bit like an apple that grows in my neighbour’s garden ( it used to be a field with fruit trees before the houses were built here so we all have at least one apple tree)every year at this time it is covered in the most glorious red apples. Absolutely tasteless, the birds ignore them, even in the cold weather of last winter. Looks wonderful, but useless as anything other than a decorative tree. My cooking apple isn’t as lovely but it is way more useful!
    In old apple plantings you do find trees that look good but don’t produce fruit worth eating-perhaps they were planted from seed and looked like they might be good apples, were found not to be but were so lovely in autumn and so full of blossom in spring that the tree was kept as a useful pollinator for the other trees and because it was beautiful.If the fruits were about the size of large cherries it will probably be an ornamental crab apple, larger and it will probably be some sort of apple.

  2. Thank you for the identification of the type of crab apple. I had a big, very old, tree, that fell last year, the fruit of which looked just like that. And I will replace it now I know what it was.

    There are a couple of big other crabs in a copse, that you only realise are there when unbelievably sour little yellow apples appear on the ground from way up high. I have always presumed they are wild, but I wasn’t sure whether that other was wild or not. There were a lot of very old full size apple trees here, and that crab was last in one line at the edge of the copse. But I am thinking it was probably deliberate planting now.

    It is a ridiculous long shot, but I wonder if anyone recognises a description of another. It fell over years ago but is much missed, albeit not for use of the fruit. There is no photo and and I did try to identify it long ago from lists of varieties to no effect. But in the vague hope that someone knows of something similar, I will describe it. It wasn’t a crab as such in that it was neither sour nor sweet nor juicy and was almost completely tasteless. It was useless as fruit, to humans anyway. What it was, though, was incredibly beautiful. The tree produced these long paniers, incredibly heavily laden individual branches, of fruit that were this most fabulous crimson. And the form of it, with the distinct paniers of colour, was just so attractive. It looked amazing! The fruit, as I recall (it did fall a long time ago), were not that small either (very small ordinary apple size), and did retain some greenish bits on the back where out of the light, but what was a bit odd was that they were terribly light in weight for their size and the flesh was a brilliant white in contrast to the crimson skin. And it was just an amazing show!

    There was another tree by the apple in question, that also fell years ago. And one of the two had pale pink flowers rather than white. If it was the apple (if the other wasn’t, it might have been), that could be a clue.

    Not holding out much hope but input would be great if someone knows of anything like as described.

    Anything appreciated…Jo

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hello Helcatmichael

    I find foraging is the most exiciting/relaxing pastime and it’s totally addictive.

    Like you, it has introduced me to places I would never have discovered.

    Thanks for leaving such a positive comment.

  4. Helcatmichael

    Hi everyone,

    I have to thank you all once again- especially Fiona. I found a little tree near work today -weighed down by these very same little fruits. I picked a bag-full! I thought they must be crabapple- but after 45 minutes I have only just found one picture of oblong fruit- and that picture is yours, all the others are round.

    I have turned to gathering only this year and am out almost every evening this week, picking after work. I cannot tell you what a revelation this is for me- I am thrilled to get to know local paths, woods, fields as never before. I spend the evenings that are too dark for any further outdoor fun on the internet desperately trying to identify what I have picked- I have found Rowan, hawthorn berries, sloes and billions of elderberries this way -one huge pot of delicious elder jam on the stove 🙂 I am so intrigued by old-fashioned fruit like medlars- I had never seen them before. I hope I happen upon them- now that my eyes are open as never before at least I will not miss them!

    thank you all and happy picking!


  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jennifer,

    Thanks for the information on medlars.

    Lucky you with the quinces! Thanks for sharing your microwave method for cooking quinces with us, much appreciated.

  6. Jennifer Massey, Cambridge

    Hi, all. Just a note to say that medlars are bletted by storing them in sawdust until they’re very soft. They’re inedible until they’ve gone through this process.

    I’ve also just discovered this site and, thankfully, realised that there are still plenty of ‘gatherers’ like me left in the world. I’ve just been given a huge bag of quinces this evening and can’t wait to start on them tomorrow. I’ve discovered that they cook down to pulp very quickly in the microwave and stay yellow & piquant, and taste of purest quince flavour; this makes for something a little different as well.

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Riscagirl,

    Lucky you with a good source of crab apples. Good idea to put grog in the jellies! I am experimenting with jellies at the moment and having a lot of fun.

  8. Riscagirl

    There is a tree of the very same crab apples in the cottage next door but one to me. The owner lets me have all the apples in return for a pot of the jelly. I keep telling her how easy it is but she prefers it this way …. so I won’t grumble.
    I like the idea of adding a little extra to jellies as some of you have mentionned above. I always add some kirsch to my plum jelly it’s delicious. What could I add to my crab apple jelly? Calvados for one I guess ….

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Clare,

    Thanks for your reassuring comment.

    Glad that you are enjoying the blog.

  10. Just for your information, there isn’t really anything in the apple “family” (or its extended family of rosaceae) that is dangerous to eat. There might be some things that are inedible because they’re too sour, too hard or irritant (such as rosehips) but nothing strictly poisonous.

    Fabulous blog by the way – wish I had a garden with as much produce as you do!

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