With the name medlar, we refer to two distinct species: the Medlar of Germany, of ancient cultivation in Europe, and the Medlar of Japan, which arrived in our continent only at the end of 1700.
In this article we describe the Japanese medlar, or Japanese medlar, an evergreen fruit plant with a pleasant appearance and very productive.
The Japanese medlar is often found in gardens even as a tree ornamental, but it can also be cultivated for productive purposes, both as an isolated specimen and as a component of an orchard, which opens the harvest season. In fact, the maturation of the medlar takes place in spring, well ahead of other fruit trees, slightly ahead of some cherry varieties.
There organic cultivation it is very suitable for this species and is the method we recommend to practice.
The Eriobotrya japonica plant
The Japanese medlar (Eriobotrya japonica), despite its name, it is originally from eastern China, from where it then spread to Japan and finally to Europe. It is part of the Rosaceae family, like many other more common fruit trees. As anticipated it is a distinct species compared to the Germanic medlar (Mespilus germanica).
In our country it is grown professionally in Sicily and Calabria, while in other regions it is found more as an isolated species in gardens or mixed orchards, where it can be cultivated with relative ease.
The plant is beautiful to look at, with its very large leaves, even 25 cm long, leathery and dark, with a little tomentum on the underside. The foliage appears dense and the flowering is autumnal, unlike most species, and this makes it a very welcome pasture by bees and other pollinating insects, which in that period are in a condition of shortage of blooms.
The flowers are gathered in whitish cluster inflorescences, they are hermaphroditic and pleasantly scented. Pollination is entomophilous, it occurs thanks to insects, so even an isolated medlar can produce without the need for other pollinating plants.
The varieties of Japanese medlar
The Japanese medlar has been present in Italy since the early 1800s and since then fruit growers have selected varieties, especially in the south, among which we mention for example: Nespolo di Ferdinando, Grosso Lungo, Grosso tondo, Precoce di Palermo, Nespolone di Palermo.
Climate and terrain indicated
The ideal climate for this species is mild, because the flowering is autumn and consequently an anticipation of cold in that period can compromise it, while the intense winter cold can damage the fruits of the growing medlar.
Towards the ground the Japanese medlar is quite adaptable, but as it happens for many species, it badly tolerates water stagnation, which occurs on strongly clayey and compact soils. The excessive presence of limestone could also be a problem, but the rootstock used also affects this.
How to plant the medlar
To transplant a Japanese medlar specimen it is recommended to choose one sunny position, and if possible sheltered from strong winds.
It is necessary dig a hole deep enough, in order to deeply move a good volume of soil in which the roots will deepen.
As a basic fertilization it is advisable to mix a generous dose of fully ripe compost or manure, to the excavated earth of the hole, preferably to that of the more superficial layers.
The young plant finally inserts itself straight into the hole, the earth is restored and you press slightly with your feet to make the earth adhere to the roots.
Many Japanese loquat plants have been directly sown and are accordingly free of foot, that is, not grafted, they grow very slowly, entering production after at least 6 or 7 years from sowing and tend to become very vigorous.
Plants purchased from nurserymen are grafted onto "common franc" rootstock, which is a medlar in turn, or on quince, in the latter case to obtain less vigorous specimens, but a little more sensitive to the presence of limestone in the soil.
Grafted plants go into production much faster than directly seeded ones, and after three years you can eat medlar.
Cultivation of the Japanese medlar
The Japanese medlar is a plant simple to maintain and it does not require special care, like many other perennial trees it is important to take care of the young plant's irrigation and remember to add fertilizer periodically.
During the first years after transplanting it is necessary to keep an eye on the plant and irrigate it whenever needed, especially in the summer period characterized by temperature rises often accompanied by drought.
Adult plants require less water since the root system develops, even if it does not reach great depths, and the plant becomes more self-sufficient.
When to fertilizing, it is useful spread manure on the projection of the crown on the ground every year, or in spring or autumn in order to always return what is removed from production and keep the soil fertility high.
Mulch and roofing
A good layer of mulch spread all around the plant is an important protection from the invasion of weeds, which in times of drought can compete a lot with medlar for water.
To mulch we can use natural materials such as straw, hay, withered grass, wood chips, or even the classic black sheets.
How to prune the Japanese medlar
Pruning interventions on the Japanese medlar are above all cuts aimed at aerating the hair when it is too thick, to eliminate branches that are too low, those dry and hit by adversity.
The best times to prune are immediately after harvesting, in late spring, and during the winter, however, skipping the moments of greatest thermal lowering.
The best shape for this species is globe, with a fairly low main stem and 3 or 4 main branches
Biological defense of the Japanese medlar
The Japanese medlar does not have many phytosanitary problems and is well suited to cultivation under organic farming.
Diseases of the medlar
The fungal disease that can affect the Japanese medlar with some frequency is scab, caused by the fungus Fusicladium eriobotryae. The pathogen affects leaves and fruits with velvety dark spots, which can lead to leaf drop and loss of production. These infections happen especially in the spring and autumn months, with a summer break.
Fungal diseases such as this can be prevented by stimulating the natural defenses of the plant through a corroborant, or a product that has a preventive function, such as macerate or horsetail extract, a plant that we can find along ditches and canals, or through a product based on propolis.
Both must be sprayed on the plant, I understand the whole foliage well, and if they are not sufficient, we could use a cupric product, treating according to all the instructions on the label of the product purchased.
Parasitic insects of medlars
Gods animal parasites that can attack the Japanese medlar we mention in particular:
Aphids get away by treating with extracts of nettle, chilli or garlic, while against the scale insects we can spray gods macerated fern.
If these natural products weren't enough, we could use soft potassium soap or Marseille soap to defeat aphids, while a white oil against scale insects.
Cultivation of medlar in pots
Having a beautiful vase like those hollows that are usually used to grow citrus fruits, it is also possible to have a Japanese medlar on the balcony, on a terrace, or in any case on a space above ground such as the internal courtyard of a building.
In these situations it will certainly be possible protect the plant from cold winds and frost, so that late autumn flowering is not threatened.
The important is always guarantee a good water supply to the plant e fertilize it every year, even only with natural manure.
Collection of medlar and use
The fruits ripen in the spring, after having attached in the winter and growing slowly. They are light orange in color, about the size of apricots or slightly larger.
It is important not to anticipate the harvest because the fruits that are still a little unripe are sour and dry to the taste. Indicatively, they can be obtained from an adult and healthy plant up to 30 kg of fruit, which must be gently detached from the stalk and placed in low layers in the containers, because they can be easily dented.
Medlars can be kept for a short time in the refrigerator for fresh consumption but can also be transformed into jams. Inside the pulp are contained large dark-colored seeds, which can also be used to give birth to new specimens of medlar.