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Poisonous Fruit At My Supermarket!

Posted on 1st April 2021

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I read an interesting story on the BBC, which put something into perspective for me.

The article is about medlars, an ancient type of fruit that is almost impossible to find nowadays. "Medieval Europeans were fanatical about [medlars] that could only be eaten rotten."

As a teenager, I tasted medlars. A relative had a tree in their garden; they had been allowed to rot on the tree. I copied my father by squeezing the pulp out of the tough skin. The flesh was rather like eating stewed or baked apple.

A couple of years ago I was amazed to find medlars (called Mispel in German) at my local Edeka supermarket, and bought some. They were not ripe, and are not worth eating until they are rotten.

What I didn't know is that if medlars are eaten before becoming rotten, they can make you violently ill: they cause diarrhoea. But if you put them in a crate of sawdust or straw and forget about them for several weeks, they gradually darken and their hard, astringent flesh softens to the consistency of a baked apple; or you can just let them rot on the tree.

I can see that selling such fruit is problematic for supermarkets. Medlars are not robust enough to transport when ripe enough to eat. What concerns me is that the Edeka supermarket sold them without any health warning or instructions on how to ripen them. Sadly, I have not seen medlars in any shops since.