Off-track bletting: Forget apple and pear trees - grow a taste of the unexpected

 

Bletting. It's not your average sort of conversational word. But talk to Mark Diacono, the owner and sole proprietor of Otter Farm in Devon, and it works its way in pretty quick. Because "bletting" is what everyday folk do to their medlars – a hard, tart fruit if eaten raw – to make them edible. Effectively, it means leaving them lying around for a week or two to rot ever so slightly. Sounds disgusting, tastes delicious. And Diacono is on a one-man quest at this time of year: to get more of us bletting.

"And just now it's bare-root time, the perfect time to plant fruit," he insists. "There's a little bit of warmth in the soil, so you can get a little bit of root growth before the real cold sets in." Apart from medlars, what kind? "All sorts," he laughs – and he should know. For six years now he's been running his "climate-change farm" near the market town of Honiton, which incorporates not just a fruit-tree nursery, but also exotic crops that benefit from warmer summers.

Otter Farm bare-root trees are a select bunch, from a distinguished selection made by Diacono himself. As author of the River Cottage Handbook on the subject of fruit, he has plenty of useful opinions on the subject. But he also has some strict views, too. If you were pondering treating a delightful relative to a partridge in a pear tree this Christmas, you'll find him urging you to think again.

"Look, apples and pears are fantastic trees," he says, "but if you have room for only one or two, don't buy them. You can get good apples and pears in the shops." Instead, the author of 2011's award-winning cookbook A Taste of the Unexpected is, not surprisingly, urging us to veer off the standard path and walk on the wild side.

Which is where the bletting comes in. Big time. "Medlars, quinces, mulberries," he pronounces, "you can't buy them for love nor money." And these old-fashioned fruits are fantastically juicy, beautifully fragrant and totally unusual. So why don't we hear more about them? "They don't fit into the supermarket system." But plant one yourself, Diacono urges, and you too could be home-bletting.

If that idea sounds just a bit much, consider the halfway house of the peach family. "Apricots, nectarines and peaches are unbelievably good when you grow them yourself. Plus, they have the most beautiful pink blossom. And on a genuine dwarf tree you get 30 or 40 peaches, no trouble, once they're established. On a tiny little tree!"

So if you're wondering how to say goodbye to 2012 and see in the new gardening year, think on a new fruit tree to see you through the winter.

Diacono will be spending his winter out walking his fields, but what does he do on those dark days when there's no going outside? It turns out the answer is Scrabble. "Last year, I won a game by putting down all my letters, so I got 50 extra points, on the triple-word score. And it was the last word of the game!" And the word he played? "Bletting!"

Diacono's delights

Peach – Paraguayo

"Just delicious," says Mark. "It's like a doughnut – slightly flattened, white flesh, really juicy gorgeous dark-pink flowers. And it'll only ever grow 1½m tall." £44 for four-year-old tree

Quince – Lezcovacz

"Siberian and marvellous. The flowers are like little barbershop twists and the smell is a cloud of loveliness. The fruit is gorgeous just baked with cream, brown sugar, butter, some Christmas spices and raisins spiced with brandy." £29.50 for a dwarf tree

Medlar – Nottingham

"They look beautiful, with gorgeous dog-rose flowers, which will flower erratically all the way through the year, and the leaves do classic autumn traffic-light business." And that's before you get to the bletting. £30 for two-year-old tree.

All available from shop.otterfarm.co.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
News
news
News
The cartoon depicts the UK (far left) walking around a Syrian child refugee
newsIn an exclusive artwork for The Independent, Ali Ferzat attacks Britain's lack of 'humanity'
Life and Style
Man taking selfie in front of car
health
Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
PROMOTED VIDEO
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Manager - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web-based lead generation ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day