Quince in Bloom

Before the blossoms have all fallen, I want to share these pictures of my Pineapple quince trees. Like other quince varieties, they grow no more than fifteen feet high, and each forms an umbrella-like canopy. The trees blossom profusely, with pale pink flowers that are bigger than the blooms of all my apples and pears. The quince trees’ springtime appearance is outdone only by their glory of autumn, when their hundreds of big, golden, pear-shaped fruits perfume the garden with their tart fragrance.

Prior to the invention of packaged pectin, nearly every American farmstead or garden had a tree like this, if the climate allowed, because quince is an excellent source of pectin. The tart, light-colored juice combines well with other fruits and juices and with spices such as ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The fruit is hard and mildly astringent, but when cooked it mellows and softens, without losing its shape, and with long cooking it turns from white to a startling ruby red. You can poach quinces in wine and honey, stew them with meat (as do cooks in the quince’s Caucasian homeland), and add them to apple pies and applesauce. You can make quinces into jelly, preserves, wine, syrup, membrillo, and liqueur. And you can probably do all this with the harvest of one mature tree.

Even if you’re not sure you like the fruit, consider planting a quince tree. You need only one, because it will self-pollinate. You won’t have to spray it; the hard fruit resists both apple maggots and coddling moths. You can think of your quince tree, if you like, as an easy-care ornamental.

But do try using the fruits. Here’s a very simple recipe for an aromatic syrup that’s delicious in either hot tea or iced water.

Raw Quince-Honey Syrup

Use a sturdy knife to slice the quinces. For coring, a tool that looks like a thick, sharpened little spoon works best.

1 pound peeled and cored quinces, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

2 cups honey

Layer the quince cubes and honey in a quart jar. Cap the jar tightly, and let it stand at room temperature for two weeks.

After two weeks, drain off the syrup and pour it into sterilized jars. Cap the jars, and store them in the refrigerator or another cool place. The syrup should keep well for months.

Eat the shriveled quince cubes as candy, if you like, or simmer them in white or rosé wine and serve them with roast poultry or pork.


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About Linda Ziedrich

I grow, cook, preserve, and write about food in Oregon's Willamette Valley.
This entry was posted in Fruits, Sweet preserves and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Quince in Bloom

  1. Lynn says:

    I made quince paste (membrillo) for the first time two years ago. Turned out great, but is a lot of work! This year I canned quince slices in cinnamon syrup for something different. What a beautiful tree, and that it doesn’t get to large. On my list for when I have a piece of land.

  2. tigress says:

    hi Linda!
    I am very excited to see your post as I have just planted two quince trees. They sound and look lovely! I have a question about your recipe – you say to shake until the sugar is dissolved, but I do not see sugar in the ingredient list. Am I missing something?

  3. Julia says:

    I was delighted to see this posting–I have a pineapple quince tree that I planted a few years ago, and I live in hope that it will one day bear quinces! So far no luck, and I’m afraid it may be because of poor soil quality and a too-small planting hole to start with; it has an unusually vertical growth habit and although it blooms, it doesn’t set fruit. But it’s inspiring to see what it should (and might one day) look like, and to read wonderful recipes for quince.

    • Julia, if your tree is growing and blossoming, I don’t think the soil quality or planting hole is the problem. Maybe the weather has hindered pollination? But the vertical growth habit makes me think that you may have something other than a Pineapple quince. Perhaps the tree was mislabeled in the nursery?

  4. Julia says:

    Like my pal, Tigress, I also just bought two quince trees! They are orange quinces. I can’t wait to get them in the ground–this is a purchase I’ve been wanting to make for a few years now. And hopefully it won’t be too long before I see them fruit!

  5. Dona says:

    I see several varieties of quince trees. I would like to plant one I will be able to make the jelly etc. Can anyone give me an idea of the fragrance and taste differences?

    • Dona,
      I have tasted (raw) many, many varieties of quince at the National Clonal Germplasm Repository orchard in Corvallis, Oregon, and in my opinion they are all very similar in taste and fragrance. The Pineapple may be especially aromatic, but the others have a similar aroma. The Pineapple is not, despite what it’s breeder said (see _Luther Burbank: his methods and discoveries and their practical application_, available on Google Books), particularly good raw. There are a lot of rumors about varieties newly introduced to this country that are as good raw as apples, but this seems a matter more of individual taste than of varying quality among quinces. More important than taste or fragrance in choosing a variety may be time of ripening and disease resistance. Joseph Postman at the NCGR (joseph.postman@ars.usda.gov) might be able to give you some advice about this. If not, I suggest choosing a variety that you know has done well in your region or one that has a long history in the United States–Pineapple or Van Deman (Burbank introductions), Orange (though I hear that this is less a uniform variety than a descriptive name for the round fruit), and Smyrna. If you don’t mind experimenting with new introductions, you might try one of the Russian varieties available from One Green World nursery.

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