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Mosphila - The Cypriot Berry that Makes the Perfect Jam!

One of the wonderful aspects of living in Cyprus was that I got the opportunity to explore a new environment. A few months into my stay, during a tour and hike in the mountains, my dear Cypriot friend Eleni introduced me to a fruit I had never seen before - μόσφιλα mosphila (singular, μόσφιλο / mosphilo; plural, μόσφιλα / mosphila). She gave me one to taste and that was all it took - after one bite, I was instantly hooked! I ended up filling up the pockets of my dress with mosphila and then filling an empty water bottle with them so I could enjoy them later on at home.

Mosphila are small, round fruits that range in color from yellow to pale orange. They look similar to small apricots, quince, or tiny apples and are "meaty" inside, but taste sweet with a hint of acidity. They are eaten straight from the tree and are also made into a delicious, sweet marmelade that I grew to love. Apparently I am not the only one that loves this marmelade, as it has made its way into the Cypriot Food Museum's online database (more on that here)!

Mosphila being boiled, photo credit to Afrodite's Kitchen Blog.

While I never noticed these fruits in any of my trips to Greece, after some research I found that they also grow in Greece. The shrubby plant is part of the Rhododendron family and grows as a deciduous shrub most commonly in rocky fields, steeply-sloped ground, and on or side of the road. The shrub takes the form of a small tree, and when it blooms (usually around April-May), small, bright white flowers are visible throughout the tree until the fruits are produced later in October-November.

The mosphila also go by some other names, including 'azaroles' (which derives from the plant's name Crataegus azarolus - a species of hawthorn native to the Mediterranean), 'loquat,' and 'medlar.' I am not a botanist, however, thus am unsure of which would be the most appropriate/accurate name in English. I tried to research this while in Cyprus so that I could share the plant name with my Thea, but was unsuccessful in finding out exactly what the plant is. I also read online that in the Turkish Cypriot community, the name of the fruit is translated as the 'Plum of Malta' or 'New World Fruit.'

According to the Cyprus Center for Environmental Research and Education (CYCPEE), in ancient times the wood from the tree, which is hard and resistant to rotting, was used to make sturdy plows. The plant itself is vital to wildlife, as wild animals enjoy these fruits as a main source of sustenance. Mosphila also have beneficial medicinal properties. The bioflavonoids in the fruits help arteries dilate and promote healthy blood flow to the heart as well as help prevent degeneration of blood vessels through the antioxidants also present in the fruit (source).

Me picking (and later eating) mosphila in the mountains of Cyprus.

I would highly recommend giving this wonderful fruit a taste if you ever get the chance. It as one of my favorite flavors from my time in Cyprus! My favorite way to enjoy it is either as a jam or marmelade or as raw fruit, where the unique flavor can be fully enjoyed and appreciated. If you are interested in trying out a recipe, here is one I found online. I hope to try it out one day, but as I don't have access to mosphila right now, it will have to wait. If you're desperate to give them a taste, try ordering some marmelade online from Cyprus - plenty of home cooks make it in bulk and ship it worldwide.

So, have you ever tasted mosphila? What are your thoughts? I'd love to hear all about it!


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