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Quince

Cydonia oblonga


Description

The quince is a fruit that grows on small trees. It is in the same family as apples and pears. It starts green coloured and then ripens to a bright golden yellow colour, and looks like a bumpy lemon. Quinces are mainly used for making jelly and jam. The interior of a quince is white when it is raw, but it becomes pinkish orange when it is cooked, so that is the colour of the jelly or jam when it is made.

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History

The fruit was known to the Akkadians, who called it supurgillu; Arabic سفرجل safarjal "quinces" (collective plural). The modern name originated in the 14th century as a plural of quoyn, via Old French cooin from Latin cotoneum malum / cydonium malum, ultimately from Greek κυδώνιον μῆλον, kydonion melon "Kydonian apple". The quince tree is native to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Pakistan and was introduced to Syria, Croatia, Bosnia, Turkey, Serbia, Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Romania, Hungary, Ukraine and Bulgaria.

Cultivation of quince may have preceded apple culture, and many references translated to "apple", such as the fruit in Song of Solomon, may have been to a quince. Among the ancient Greeks, the quince was a ritual offering at weddings, for it had come from the Levant with Aphrodite and remained sacred to her. Plutarch reports that a Greek bride would nibble a quince to perfume her kiss before entering the bridal chamber, "in order that the first greeting may not be disagreeable nor unpleasant" (Roman Questions 3.65). It was a quince that Paris awarded Aphrodite. It was for a golden quince that Atalanta paused in her race. The Romans also used quinces; the Roman cookbook of Apicius gives recipes for stewing quince with honey, and even combining them, unexpectedly, with leeks. Pliny the Elder mentioned the one variety, Mulvian quince, that could be eaten raw. Columella mentioned three, one of which, the "golden apple" that may have been the paradisal fruit in the Garden of the Hesperides, has donated its name in Italian to the tomato, pomodoro.

Uses

Quince is resistant to frost and requires a cold period below 7 °C to flower properly. The tree is self-fertile, however its yield can benefit from cross fertilization. The fruit can be left on the tree to ripen further which softens the fruit to the point where it can be eaten raw in warmer climates, but should be picked before the first frosts.

Most varieties of quince are too hard, astringent and sour to eat raw unless ‘bletted’ (softened by frost and subsequent decay). They are used to make jam, jelly and quince pudding, or they may be peeled, then roasted, baked or stewed. The flesh of the fruit turns red after a long cooking time. The very strong perfume means they can be added in small quantities to apple pies and jam to enhance the flavour. Adding a diced quince to apple sauce will enhance the taste of the applesauce with the chunks of relatively firm, tart quince. The term "marmalade", originally meaning a quince jam, derives from "marmelo," the Portuguese word for this fruit.

The fruit, like so many others, can be used to make a type of wine. Because of its often high acidity which is mainly due to its malic acid content, these wines are, more often than not, sweet dessert wines that are high in alcohol. Quince juice, Quittensaft, is a common drink in Germany, which is also where the saying "A quince for you, a quince for me, quinces we shall eat" is believed to have originated. In the Balkans and elsewhere quince brandy is made. In Carolina in 1709 John Lawson allowed that he was "not a fair judge of the different sorts of Quinces, which they call Brunswick, Portugal and Barbary" but he noted "of this fruit they make a wine or liquor which they call Quince-Drink, and which I approve of beyond any that their country affords, though a great deal of cider and perry is there made, The Quince-Drink most commonly purges."

Varieties of quince, such as ‘Kuganskaya’, have been developed that do not require cooking and are eaten raw.

In Europe, quinces are commonly grown in central and southern areas where the summers are sufficiently hot for the fruit to fully ripen. They are not grown in large amounts; typically one or two quince trees are grown in a mixed orchard with several apples and other fruit trees: so were they grown in the 18th-century New England colonies, where there was always a quince at the lower corner of the vegetable garden, Ann Leighton notes in records of Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Newburyport, Massachusetts. Charlemagne directed that quinces be planted in well-stocked orchards. Quinces are mentioned for the first time in an English text in the later 13th century, though cultivation in England is not very successful due to inadequate summer heat to ripen the fruit fully. Instead Chaenomeles bushes are grown – their smaller fruit is regarded as a good substitute for quinces.

In Slavonia, Croatia when a baby is born, quince tree gets planted as a symbol of fertility, love and life.

In Lebanon, it is called sfarjel and also used to make jam. In Syria, quince is cooked in pomegranate paste (dibs rouman) with shank meat and kibbeh (a middle eastern meat pie with burghul and mince meat) and is called kibbeh safarjalieh. In Pakistan quinces are stewed together with sugar until they turn bright red. The resulting stewed quince, called Muraba is then preserved in jars and eaten like jam.

Quince

Quince was also introduced to the New World and also Australia, in temperate states where in some locations it has grown wild, and New Zealand. It has become rare in North America due to its susceptibility to fireblight disease caused by the bacterium Erwinia amylovora. They are still widely grown in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Almost all of the quinces in North American specialty markets come from Argentina. In Latin America the gel-like, somewhat adhesive substance surrounding the seeds was used to shape and style hair.

In Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela the membrillo, as the quince is called in Spanish, is cooked into a reddish jelly-like block or firm reddish paste known as dulce de membrillo. It is then eaten in sandwiches and with cheese, traditionally manchego cheese, or accompanying fresh curds. In Portugal, a similar sweet is called marmelada. It is also produced and consumed in Hungary where it is called "quince cheese". The sweet and floral notes of carne de membrillo (quince meat) contrast nicely with the tanginess of the cheese. Boiled quince is also popular in desserts such as the murta con membrillo that combines ugni molinae with quince. Similar dish exists in Dalmatia, Croatia.

Used as a rootstock for grafted plants, quince has the property of dwarfing the growth of pears, of forcing them to produce more precociously, and relatively more fruit-bearing branches, instead of vegetative growth, and of accelerating the maturity of the fruit.

In the Canary Islands and some places in South America a quince is used to play an informal beach toss-and-swim game, usually among young teens. When mixed with salt water a mature quince will turn its sour taste to sweet. The game is played by throwing a quince into the sea. All players race to catch the quince and whoever catches it, takes one bite and tosses the quince again, then the whole process gets repeated until the quince is fully eaten.

In the Alsace region of France and the Valais region of Switzerland liqueur de coing is made from quince and used as a digestif.

Quince can also be used as a tea additive to mainly green tea, giving it a rather sweetish taste and scent.

The content of this entry is from Wikipedia licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.


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