Tree fruit here refers to apples, crab apples, pears, quince and medlars. All contain small seeds that are discarded. Apples, quince, medlars and crab apples remain hard, even when ripe. Apples have sweet or sour, juicy and tender flesh that can be eaten raw, while quince, medlars and crab apples need cooking before use and must be peeled or strained once cooked. Quince and crab apples require cooking and medlars need to be ‘bletted’ (see medlar page) before use. Pears have edible skin and turn juicy and soft as they ripen.
The British tree fruit season starts in August with the first apples and ends in November with medlars. During that time, many different varieties of apples will be picked, some of which will store well until the following March. UK-grown pears, quince and medlars follow. It is worth buying unfamiliar varieties of tree fruit, especially apples, as some will only be around for a week or two.
All tree fruit should feel heavy for their size and look fresh. Avoid damaged fruit. Some quince are coated in a grey fluff - this is natural and comes off when washed.
Quince will last for many months in a cool room, as will certain apple varieties and medlars. Pears ripen at room temperature and have to be eaten before they start to rot; however, if you have access to cooking pears such as wardens, these will keep for much longer, if stored on slats in a cool room.
If you enjoy a glut of tree fruit, peel, core, slice and cook it with or without sugar, then freeze. Apples can also be dried if sliced into rings.
Quince, cooking apples and crab apples have a high pectin content so make excellent fruit cheese and jellies. They can also be combined with other fruits with a lower pectin content to help them set. Pears and medlars have a low level of pectin.
Quince, apples, crab apples and pears make good pickles.
Pears and both dessert and cooking apples juice well and taste good mixed with the juice of other fruit such as lemons, raspberries, beetroot or carrots.
Article by Sybil Kapoor