Strange fruit: 8 tempting ideas from the orchard to brighten your week
Fruits are the jewels of any kitchen garden, but if you like unusual edibles then you're in for a treat, because many of the most productive and unusual plants produce delicious fruit that you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
Take the medlar, for example. Once upon a time it used to be a popular fruit tree, but now it is rare to find one outside of a botanic garden. Why? Because the medlar's fruit needs processing before it can be eaten. Once mature, the fruit is harvested from the tree and stored so it can 'blet' - rot, essentially - to the point where the flesh is soft enough to eat with a spoon. Although it may sound yukky to those who are accustomed to shrink-wrapped and perfect supermarket produce, the medlar is supposed to be a gourmet treat that tastes like spiced fruit and needs no added sugar.
The medlar (Mespilus germanica) makes quite a large tree, growing up to 6m tall, but there are plenty of unusual fruits suitable for smaller spaces.
The Japanese wineberry (Rubus phoenicolasius) is in the same plant family as raspberries and blackberries, but while it grows in a very similar manner, with long arching stems, it has several differences. The first is the lovely red colour of its stems, which are spiny but not as sharp as a blackberry: they scratch rather than prickle. The fruits are encased in a calyx until they're ripe, protecting them from both birds and maggots, and are another almost unheard-of treat.