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

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk