Although many people still aren’t familiar with Cydonia obologna, (sole member of its genus), it’s beginning to show up again in home gardens and is truly a “quincessential” fruit to consider.
Fruiting quince, (not to be confused with flowering chaenomoles), also called the “true” quince, has a long and interesting history.
Considered native to Iran, Turkey, the Crimean Peninsula, northern Persia and possibly Greece, its name, Cydonia oblonga, comes from an area of Crete.
Familiar in Palestine around 1000 BC, its cultivation spread to South East Europe and the Levant before the apple. It eventually found its way around the world to Africa, Australia, South America, Mexico, the Eastern Mediterranean and, eventually, the US.
American colonists made quince jam and jelly, taking advantage of the naturally high pectin content. Its popularity possibly fell off when commercial pectin made the process way more convenient.
High pectin content also renders most quince flesh astringent, perhaps another reason for not cultivating what one cannot consume raw. However, some varieties have a sweet, slightly tart taste with a hint of pineapple and lemon, making them quite edible off the tree.
Astringent or not, quince has the most wonderful aromatic fragrance that will perfume any room they’re placed in. Their skins have velvety surfaces that need to be removed (gently rub off beneath a running faucet) before using. They’re also rich in fiber and have moderate amounts of vitamin C and potassium.
Their flesh is denser than apples. Their exterior shape varies from oblong, lumpy to pear-shaped. Their skin turns a vibrant yellow when mature and some can weigh nearly 16 oz.
They’re delicious cooked in both savory and sweet dishes. Longer cooking with an acid not only richens flavor but deepens rosy color. Stew, bake, spice them like apples, cook along side meats, make into pudding, pie or crisp, compote or try quince paste. It’s also said they make very good wine!
Quince can be maintained as small 10 to12’ trees or left unpruned, as shrubbier plants. Stippled leaves become platforms for delicate, pirouetting, pink solitary buds that open like miniature water lilies.
Quince is self-fertile, but another plant will increase fruiting even more. They’re hardy in zones 4 to 9. They prefer areas with partial shade or late afternoon sun since they do poorly in hotter, direct sunlight.
They also tolerate a wide range of soil types, as long as they’re well-drained and moderately rich in plant-based organic matter. Use a well-balanced fertilizer annually, then top with mulch. Avoid planting in a pot as they will soon outgrow it.
Once established, quince will still need regular watering that is best provided with drip irrigation. Don’t water lightly/frequently, but deeply (1” or about 10 gallons) once weekly or twice when very hot.
Although generally not bothered by pests, being in the Rosaceae family, they are subject to fire blight. However, spraying with copper soap shield will keep that in check and your harvest basket full of fragrant, delicious fruit. They are subject to the same scale insects that attack apples and pears and should receive the same dormant spray treatment for the control of those pests.
Whether you perceive them as curious or peculiar, the “quincessential” quince deserves your cultivating consideration.
Mother Earth Gardener
One Green World
They have many varieties of quince including several that are edible off the tree. Note: The author has Aromatnaya, delicious fresh.
They have a number of varieties.
3 quince, fuzz removed, cored, quartered then sliced crosswise
12 oz fresh (or frozen) organic cranberries, sorted and washed
1 small organic red onion, peeled and chopped
¼ cup organic raisins (flame are tastiest)
6 dates, pitted and chopped
1 good sized knob of fresh gingerroot, peeled and finely minced
2 cups organic apple juice
½ cup port wine (or more apple juice)
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup agave syrup (or honey or brown rice syrup)
1 tablespoon organic orange zest
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon each ground cloves and allspice
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Put all ingredients in a good-sized heavy pot and stir to mix. Bring to a slow boil, stirring occasionally and watching to keep from boiling over. Once boiling, turn heat down to low and simmer about 35-45 minutes until thickened and quince is soft. Cool and refrigerate. Can be used hot or cold for topping salads, in sandwiches, relish for poultry, on burgers instead of ketchup.
Keep in fridge for about 2 weeks or freeze for longer storage.
Makes about 4 cups.