Maybe you've seen a medlar before, perhaps even tasted one. I hadn't until a few days ago when a co-worker handed me half of one of these papery, pulpy fruits and said, "here, try this."
These members of the rose family, cousins of the apple, natives of Persia are quite peculiar. They're picked in late autumn, at which point they're green and hard and inedible, then stored and left to go through a process of fermentation and decay called "bletting," during which they turn soft and brown. Now it just remains to tear through the thin, papery skin to reveal the rich, aromatic pulp inside.
It is hard to describe medlars. They're not like anything I've eaten before. If I had to make a comparison, I would say the pulp tastes and feels very much like thick, rich apple sauce. It is subtly sweet and ever so slightly bitter on the aftertaste. A friend tried to compare medlars to persimmons, but I think the only similarity there is the bletting process both fruits go through to become edible. I was not convinced by the first bite, but kept eating and bought several to take home with me.
I enjoy eating them as is--tearing the skin and sucking out the pulp, taking care to spit out the large, slippery seeds. The Oxford Companion to Food said that in Victorian England medlars were brought to table where the pulp was scraped out and mixed with sugar and cream for dessert. Other options for medlars are jelly or medlar cheese, made like lemon curd, or something of your own creation, such as the piece of toast with medlar and stinky cheese Y. just handed me.
It is always a pleasure to try a new food, particularly one as exotic as a medlar. For this I have Scott Farm to thank, and the turns of fate that brought me to Vermont.