Medlar (Eriobotrya japonica)

The medlar is a fruit tree that, although it is native to East Asia, has managed to adapt very well to the temperate climate of Europe and even to the mild temperatures of some parts of America. In addition, it is a plant that provides shade throughout the year, as it has large leaves that remain on the tree for months, and that soon after they dry out, they are replaced by new ones.

Thus, while you have a soft drink or enjoy an ice cream resting on its trunk in spring, you can take advantage of and taste its fruits. These are delicious freshly picked from the tree, so in this article, we will teach you how to take care of your medlar so that the harvest is excellent.

Origin and characteristics of the medlar

The medlar is an evergreen fruit tree

Image – Wikimedia / JMK

The medlar, medlar or Japanese medlar or Japanese medlar, is an evergreen tree that, contrary to popular belief, is originally from China . What happened is that it was introduced in Japan more than a millennium ago, and it has managed to become naturalized, which is why it tends to fall into the error of thinking that it is typical of that part of the world.

It belongs to the Rosaceae family and is a plant whose scientific name is Eriobotrya japonica that reaches 10 meters in height . Its trunk is straight, not very high since it branches short of the ground and forms a rounded crown. The leaves are dark green on the upper side and lighter on the underside, leathery, and are up to 30 centimeters long by 10 centimeters wide.

Its flowers, which appear in panicles about 15 centimeters long during autumn-winter, are hermaphroditic, white and fragrant, with a size of up to 2 centimeters in diameter. And the fruits ripen in spring .

What kind of fruit is the medlar?

It is a fruit with an ovoid shape, with orange skin and yellowish / orange pulp . This is compact and aromatic, it also has a slightly acid flavor.

When consuming it, it is recommended to peel it, and cut it in half to extract the seeds (there may be between 1 and 5) that it has inside. These are very easy to remove, as they measure approximately 1.5 centimeters, and are hard.

How long does it take for a loquat to bear fruit?

The medlar is a tree that can surprise us a lot, and it is that from the moment the seed germinates until the plant grows enough to bear fruit, only 4-5 years can pass if it is well cared for.

For this reason, it is very interesting to buy some medlars – better if they are organic – in our trusted greengrocer, and after cleaning the seeds well, sow them (below we explain step by step how they should be sown).

What are the properties of the medlar?

The medlar is a fruit that is used as an expectorant, demulcent and digestive . In its country of origin, its consumption is very common to prevent or treat throat discomfort.

Although we cannot forget its nutritional wealth: it contains fiber, minerals as important as magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and potassium, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6 and C, thanks to which you can have a good Health.

What are the varieties of medlar?

Loquats are edible fruits

Roughly , two types of medlar are distinguished: Chinese and Japanese . The first bears later fruits, darker in color and with more seeds; while the second is just the opposite; that is, its fruits ripen soon, the skin is lighter and it has fewer seeds. But the latter have a drawback, and that is that the flavor is not always the best.

The best known varieties are:

  • Algar or Algerian : it is an early variety that has fruits with yellow-orange skin and pulp. Its flavor is bittersweet.
  • Golden Nuget : It is precocious. It produces rounded fruits, with dark skin and juicy pulp although somewhat acidic.
  • Peluche : it is a precocious variety that produces fruits with little flavor.
  • Tanaka : it is a late variety, which produces pirifomes (pear-shaped) fruits, orange in color. Its pulp is very juicy and has a sweet taste.

How is the cultivation of the medlar?

The japonica Eriobotrya is a very, very easy to tree care. It is a plant that does not need to spend many hours of cold , that is, hours during which the temperature remains below 7 degrees, to produce its fruits . For this reason, you can cultivate without any problem in much of Spain, including the Mediterranean region.

But it is important to know your basic needs so that you can grow as we want you to:

Location

The medlar is a tree that has to be put in a sunny place . Likewise, it is necessary to take into account the dimensions that it will have once it reaches adulthood, since it is important that it is planted at a distance of at least two meters from the wall.

The roots of this plant are superficial and non-invasive , so we will not have to worry about this issue.

Land

  • Garden : grows in almost all types of soils. You just have to avoid planting it in those that get flooded easily, since excess water is very harmful to it.
  • Pot : if we choose to have it in a pot, it can be filled with prepared substrates such as the urban garden (for sale here ), as this will ensure that it will have all the nutrients it needs to grow for a while.

Irrigation

The medlar has to be watered from time to time. It can’t stand drought, so you have to make sure it doesn’t get too thirsty. Thus , in summer we may have to water 2 or 3 times a week , pouring water until the soil is well watered. If it is on the ground, it will be highly recommended to make a tree grate to make better use of that water, as it will prevent it from getting lost.

On the contrary, during autumn and winter, which are months in which the weather is cool, you will have to water less.

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While our fruit tree is growing, it is highly recommended to pay it . The growing season begins with the arrival of spring and ends when temperatures begin to drop in the fall / winter.

Now when the weather is mild, it will bloom very early, perhaps before winter is over. That is why if we live in an area where frosts are not registered or if they are very weak and punctual, it is started to pay in that season.

What fertilizers to use? Well, since we are talking about a tree that produces edible fruits, we recommend choosing fertilizers of organic origin , since these are not toxic to the plant or the environment, and they also do not have a “waiting time” to collect the fruit.

Some examples are:

  • Seaweed fertilizer
  • Guano
  • Animal manure ( chicken , goat, cow, etc.)
  • Worm Hummus

Multiplication

Medlars multiply by seeds

Image – Wikimedia / Frank Vincentz

It multiplies by seeds in spring-summer . Ideally, they should be extracted from freshly picked fruits from the tree, although those bought in a greengrocer are also useful (but I insist: opt for organic ones since, although they are a little more expensive, they not only do not have pesticides but also tend to germinate better).

The steps to follow are those:

  1. The first thing is to clean the seed with water. It is important that it does not have any pulp attached as otherwise it could become full of fungus.
  2. Afterwards, it is introduced into a glass of water. If we see that it sinks, it is because it is viable.
  3. The next step is to prepare a pot that will serve as a seedbed. If we are only going to plant one, a small pot of 6.5 centimeters in diameter (more or less) is worth it, but it must have holes in its base. We fill it with substrate prepared for seedlings, coconut fiber or vermiculite and water.
  4. Now, we make a small hole in the center, for example with a finger, and insert the seed.
  5. Finally, we cover it with substrate and with a little copper powder to prevent fungi from destroying it, and we place the pot in a sunny place.

Thus, it will germinate in a matter of a month.

Another way to sow it is between cottons, literally . We take two pieces of cotton, moisten them with water and place the seed with a little copper sprinkled on top in the center of both. To keep it moist, everything is inserted into a plastic container with a lid, and placed in a room with light.

Of course, you have to check it daily in case the cottons dry out and / or if the seed germinates. As soon as we see that a root appears, we will have to plant it in a pot.

Sometimes the medlar is multiplied by gusset grafting . This is done mostly to speed up fruiting, but also to get other varieties.

Loquat pruning

A loquat begins to be pruned more or less when it has reached a height of 1.5-2 meters . Before it is not advisable to do it, since you must wait for it to strengthen a little.

There are three types of pruning that must be done when the time comes:

Training

It is made as the name suggests to shape the tree. It is done in late winter if the tree has not yet flowered, or in late summer otherwise.

It consists of eliminating the branches that are sprouting less than half a meter from the ground, as well as those that are broken, diseased or those that intersect.

Fructification

To stimulate fruit production. It has to be done after collecting them . Branches that bear fruit should be left behind, and those that are growing so vigorously that they protrude from the shape of the crown should be removed.

Thinning of the fruits

It is done to avoid that there are branches that break due to the weight of the fruits , or that there are some that do not receive enough light. Of course, it has to be done when the plant is bearing fruit.

It consists of selecting the best fruits from each branch and eliminating the rest, but avoiding removing too many since it would not be good for the tree to leave it with few medlars.

Plantation

The medlar is planted in the garden during the spring but only if it is not fruiting . If you have it in a pot, you have to change it to a larger one when the roots appear through the holes in it, or when you see that it has run out of space to continue growing.

Pests

Basically it is affected by one: the fruit fly ( Ceratitis capitata ). Although it can be prevented by setting specific traps.

Of course, if there are birds in the area, it is also advisable to put some scarecrows since otherwise they would eat the fruits.

Diseases and problems

It can be affected by the speckled or scab fungus , whose scientific name is Fusicladium eryobotryaea , which causes the appearance of round dark colored spots on both leaves and fruits. If symptoms are seen, the affected parts should be pulled out and the tree treated with fungicides that contain copper.

Likewise, it may have red or reddish spots on the fruits , more specifically on the skin. This is not a disease but a physiopathy caused by mineral deficiency (zinc or calcium) is the most common in this plant), or by lack of water.

Rusticity

It supports well frosts down to -5ºC , but you should know that late frosts damage the fruits. If it drops to -10ºC it will suffer significant damage.

The flowers of the medlar are white

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