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
Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Property search
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

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice