Friday, November 30, 2012

Oh for a Quince Tree

Although garden envy isn't becoming, the truth is, I am seriously coveting my girlfriend's Quince Tree. She's had it about five years now, and in late autumn, when I visit, that tree is absolutely loaded with fruit.

Wisely sited just outside her dining room window, it's a central focal point lasting for months, a feast for the eyes in anticipation of the harvest. Biblical in it's beauty, fruit hang; golden baubles reminding me of a painting, Medieval, a Maid stroking a Unicorn, resting beneath it. I can almost see it.
Photo courtesy of the gardeners
I shouldn't be envious however, as each year, a generous gift is given, an abundance of quince heartily shared. Naomi waits until they start to fall to the ground, a signal of ripeness.

If you have never felt, smelled, eaten or seen a quince, the sole member of the genus Cydonia, that wouldn't surprise me. Here where we are in Nova Scotia, Zone 5/6, not many people grow quince trees and part of the reason is, you don't often see them available in nurseries. The fruit, shaped much like a pear, is covered in a soft down when they are immature, but even then, if you pick them and bring inside, you won't believe the fragrance. A bowl full of ripe Quince can in fact, be overwhelming to the nostrils.  It reminds me of orange blossom, which is perhaps why it marries so well baked in orange syrup with orange flower water. Then there is the problem of its texture...they are hard as rocks and so must be cooked. I expect in Mediterranean climes they might ripen to an edible state outdoors but not here. The best way I have found to soften quince...the easiest way...is to prick the quince, wrap each fruit in foil, stand them all together like soldiers in a casserole dish, and bake in the oven for about 45 minutes at 375 degrees. You don't want them turned to mush so getting them to the right soft firmness is important...firm like an uncooked apple or pear. The recipe I use is from Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook..a treasure. "Baked Quinces in Orange Syrup" awesome!
Another recipe from Sarah Raven's in the same book, is Windfall Apple and Quince Cake which she notes is a Montagu and Sarah Don recipe. Instead however, of going through the trouble of peeling, coring and chopping quinces (need a cleaver for that), I substitute 1/2 to 3/4 cup of my Baked Quince in Orange Syrup (above), stir in gently, bake, and stand by for the applause. I skimped on the almonds below but next time won't. It should be totally covered.
Quince are considered sacred to the Goddess of Love and Fertility, and some scholars believe in fact, it was not an apple but a quince, Eve offered to Adam. The fruit of Love. Well see, I told you I was coveting it. Sinful yes...ah love, ah Quince!

27 comments:

  1. MMMM, Quinces!!!!

    The last ones I was given I made Quince and apple jelly then quince and apple cheese with the pulp.

    Quinces are now available on shorter and dwarfing rootstocks...a shorter wait until fruiting, but also a shorter life for the tree.

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    1. I love the sound of both those recipes. Quince does love apple doesn't it! The jelly would be especially lovely.

      Thank you for the update on the rootstocks. Hopefully I can find out this variety and, good news, our local nursery hopes to get some Quince trees in this year!

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  2. We have a quince tree on the plot but it is still a toddler. Only about 6 fruits this year. I liken the taste to a sort of fruity honey. WE cook them with apples to make a crumble. Last year we had a few more fruits and had a quince crumble without apples. They are delicious

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    1. Oh wow...you have a quince tree. I am so pleased to hear that! You are right about the fruity honey taste... That's it.

      Yes, Quince love apples that is for sure. Have not tried a crumble Sue.

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  3. What a fitting ode to the quince. I'm in Zone 5B but the extremes I'm sure are too much. But I did grow up in Sydney and quinces are a big part of baking just like figs and I suspect you're right about taking the extra time to ripen on the tree. The scent sounds exciting and I've spent plenty of time around a tree in flower and love it, Great post.

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    1. Thank you Patrick, what a kind comment. This quince is growing in a zone 5b garden but I don't know the variety..am trying to find out.

      Growing up in Sydney?...in Canada or not?

      Ode to the quince, perhaps I should change the blog title ;-))))
      Thanks again.

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  4. Your 'captain' mentioned quince when he was here. This is obviously a fruit I must try.

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    1. Erin, oh yes, he probably was lamenting I baked this cake the day before her went to your side of Canada! Don't worry, he managed to eat most of it ;-)

      I expect where you are, it would be easy to find them as the early settlers to the islands often planted a quince tree.

      Thanks for commenting.

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  5. Quince is so rare here - I saw my first many years ago in Denmark. Everyone there seems to make Quince jelly - an acquired taste!

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    1. Thanks pondside, for commenting. So it is rare where you are also. There is the shrub quince but that is a whole other genus apparently. I would also think the varieties of quince would impact the flavor, and where grown also. So what might be an acquired taste in another country might be ambrosia here..at least that is pretty well what I thought of, when I tasted the quince I made...firstly though, tasted it at Naomi's, she is a wonderful chef.

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  6. Yes, truly enviable! Have you experienced Membrillo - the Spanish quince jelly / jam? It's lovely with a sharp cheese.

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    1. I have experienced Membrillo, as my girlfriend made that last year. It was good!
      Glad you were able to send a comment Mark as I know you had trouble doing that on my blog. Great to hear from you! Love your blog, as you know.

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  7. Sounds lovely! I have never tried a quince

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    1. Thanks TC for commenting. Hope you get to try a quince some time.

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  8. Thank you for giving me your link, I will mention it in my next post. I love your blog too and look forward to following you and comparing what we can grow in our gardens! I don't have a quince tree but have bought quinces and the smell is amazing. You cake looks lovely and it reminds me that I haven't looked at my Sarah Raven cook book for a while for inspiration.
    Sarah x

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    1. Thank you Sarah, what a lovely comment. We both live by the sea, but I have never been to Dorset..what a beautiful spot, looking at your photos. Will enjoy comparing the garden growths of both coasts. Thanks again.

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  9. I must be the only one who has never tasted a quince. Seems like most commenters have some association with them. I always assumed they were something grown in tropical climates.

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  10. You are not alone Marguerite ... I have not tasted a quince either. Brenda, your cake looks so yummy!!!
    ~Michele

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  11. Now I'm coveting that tree too -- and it has a lovely fairy garden setting!

    I've seen a couple of quince trees up close and I love the bark.

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  12. I am familiar with quince bushes, but not a tree. My neighbour's quince bush produces round fruit, but not much of it. How lovely the quince tree looks in your neighbour's garden. It must be nice to have the fragrant yellow pear-shaped fruit in bowls and to bake with. It is too bad that the tree form is not more readily available.
    All the best for the holidays and the new year Brenda! I hope that you have a very merry Christmas!

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    1. Jennifer, I am sorry not to reply to this earlier. A comment came by and realized..there were three I had not replied to. Oh I do wish I had a quince tree..but they are hard to find here in N.S. My friend has so many fruits on hers, impossible to use them all and I am so grateful to have some of her excess. So great meeting you this summer of 2014

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  13. I have never even seen a quince, let alone tasted it. Sounds so exotic and delicious!

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    1. They are exoctic and delicious. I hope you get an opportunity to try them Susan.

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  14. When I lived in Vancouver, a friend in Vancouver gave me a carton of quinces as she said she had "an embarrassment of quinces". I made them into quince jelly...absolutely delicious! I am trying to find a quince tree for my garden now that I live in Nova Scotia.

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  15. An embarrassment of quinces. Oh...to be able to say that!!! Try roasting them like this recipe.. And you now live in Nova Scotia..well they are hard to find here. You might be able to get one at Blomidon Nursery in Wolfville..but phone or order ahead. Try going to Tangled garden in the fall (also Wolfville) when the trees there are loaded with fruit. Biblical..honestly.

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  16. I have a Quince of Portugal tree which is producing quite abundantly near Lunenburg, so far disease-free. (Quinces are supposed to be prone to a host of maladies, including great sensitivity to fireblight, which devastated the orchards in the Annapolis valley earlier this season.)

    I also came across a quince tree on a family farm just outside Bridgewater which is probably as much as 100 years old, and this piqued my interest. Obviously folk were planting quinces back then on their farms, (at the same time as apples). We know quite a bit about how apples got here, (Isaac de Rasilly planted apples at Fort Ste Marie de Grace in 1632. Champlain likewise planted apples both in NS and later in Quebec.) But how and when quinces arrived here, and who was growing them I do not know. Do any of you?
    You are "On the South Shore" - is it polite to ask where? (I am not adept at the etiquette surrounding blogs and web presence). Is it appropriate to ask whether it is possible to actually contact you outside this blog? (I note that the "Contact" link on the blog is greyed out and non-functional.)

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    1. David, I hope you check back here to see my reply. Your post was so full of wonderful information it definitely needs to be posted. I am between Chester and Mahone Bay.It is marvelous that your Quince is doing so well near lunenburg. The tree on the blog post is a Valley Tree and not mine. Am sorry your name does not link to a blog otherwise I would find you and contact. You are right, the link does not work on my blog but if you send another post with your email I would be happy to contact you and I won't post your message. Kind regards. And Thanks for commenting.

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