When the fruit is ripe and at its peak of perfection, it isn’t any good to eat — it’s far, far too tart: its high tannin levels would cause pucker lines on your face that would last the rest of your life. The fruit needs to be either “bletted” (let rot a bit) to make it sweet, or used in cider, where the tannins can be taken advantage.
The fruit is about 1 inch wide (2.5 cm), with about 2 to 5 seeds in each fruit. The shape can be apple-shaped or pear-shaped, with skin that is yellowish or greenish with splodges of pink or red, and some russetting.
A True Service Fruit tree, which will grow “true to seed”, can live for several hundred years and grow 30 to 60 feet tall (10 to 20 metres.) It produces white blossoms and then the small fruit growing in clusters.
The wood of the tree still brings good prices, as it is hard enough to use for items such as gun butts and wooden gear teeth. Granted, the demand for wooden gear teeth isn’t what it used to be.
See the entry on Bletting for other fruits which aren’t eaten until they have started to rot.
True Service Fruit probably originated in southern and/or eastern Europe. The Romans carried it throughout Europe. Now, it is usually only found in old plantings. Some trees found growing near Glamorgan, Wales are over 400 years old (as of 2004).