Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

ABC Wednesday - Q is for...


... Quince

It's only in the past few years I've got to know our edible Quince tree, Cydonia oblonga. Until then, I'd only really been familiar with the ornamental or Japanese Quince, Chaenomeles japonica. I grew the latter in my previous garden to give some late winter colour and it's a regular sight on my walk to the railway station as several of the Victorian properties on my route use this shrub for hedging. Sadly, most of the specimens I see are rather uncared for and a mass of tangled, thorny branches. It's a shame as the shrub's blossom is a welcome sight in late winter/early spring and its fruit are adequately edible as a preserve.

The quince tree as seen above at Lytes Cary Manor is a different kettle of fish. A nicely rambling, not too tall an affair with lovely spring blossom and large, tactile, knobbly and heavenly smelling fruit which ripen during September and October. A few centuries ago, the fruit were used medicinally for treating lung complaints, particularly asthma. Today one of the tree's main uses is as a dwarfing rootstock, particularly for pear trees like the ones I'm training as epalliers on my allotment.

The word marmalade is derived from the Portuguese marmelo, or quince preserve. I'm a lover of the Spanish version called membrillo, a heavily scented, sliceable conserve that's utterly delicious with slices of salty Manchego cheese. Just writing that has taken me back to the project in Mallorca I work on, where we'd be sitting under the white poplars taking our daily lunch of chorizo, cheeses and fresh bread. If you can remember those boxes of Meltis New Berry Fruits which used to be given as presents at Christmas, you'll have some idea of membrillo's texture, but sadly not its taste.

The next time I visit Lytes Cary Manor in the autumn, I'll see if I can scrounge some of the fruit to make The Cottage Smallholder's version of membrillo. I particularly like the look of this recipe because it uses less sugar, yet recreates my remembered preserve's texture and deep, rich colour. Perhaps R. Pete Free will let me have some fruit if I donate my surplus jars of preserve for the Manor's shop?

For more views on the letter Q, do have a look at the ABC Wednesday anthology blog.

21 comments:

  1. We used to have a quince bush in our garden - but it seems to have disappeared.The fruit had a very delicate but distinctive scent.

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  2. LOVE quince and all that you can do with it. Particularly the way one fruit will scent the whole house. I make quince vodka, useful for flavouring the Christmas cake, as well as drinking

    Joanna

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  3. I have a Quince tree in my garden Cydonia olonga 'Vranj'; its blossom is very pretty, but fruit set for me has been variable. I think I may need to get another tree, although it may be that it simply isn't mature enough. Quince and Apple Pie is a dessert from my childhood, and nothing evokes such happy memories of my Grandmother's kitchen in Evesham, as the fragrance of over-ripe quince; simply divine.

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  4. I enjoyed seeing this fruit--I don't think I've ever seen a picture of one other than in a catalog. And I'm sure I've never tasted one!
    I have a flowering quince shrub, but it doesn't produce any fruit. It had been badly neglected, so I gave it a good pruning last spring and it rewarded me with beautiful blossoms. I pruned it even more severely this summer; can't wait to see its blooms next spring!

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  5. I know I have never tasted Quince before but now you have made me curious.
    I am going to see if I can find it here.

    Bear((( )))

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  6. A quaint fruit, isn't it ?I love Quince marmelade !(Coings, in french)

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  7. Hi ABCers - I'll hop over to yours for a visit and a natter

    Joanna - you have so many unusual recipes - I'll be over to check them out once I have my quinces :)

    Zoe - Vranj is the usual one in the garden these days isn't it? I believe it's the best one.

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  8. Always make me think of Quincey, ME..
    Who could perhaps get together with Miss Maple and start investigating some long-unsolved crimes, now I think of it.

    For London dwellers, Borough market my friends.
    For others, I'm sure they have them in Waitrose, occasionally. They grow in loads of old Victorian gardens - like mulberry trees - and I'm sure most people who have them don't use any of the fruit at all because it is totally disgusting... unless cooked.

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  9. PS apparently its totally okay to cook with flowering quince fruit. There are several recipes if you google it (as I did one day last year!)

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  10. I have never tasted a quince...can't even imagine a taste for it! It looks like a little pear, tho. We have Quince shrubs around the neighborhood that bloom in the late winter. I hope you don't mind...I linked to your honey post today! gail

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  11. I should like to try and eat this fruit. May be we can buy it here!
    It sounds as if it is very nice. Good post.

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  12. I think I know why you see so many overgrown Flowering Quinces - the thorns hurt like hell. I have one & I think I've finally gotten it under control. It was already overgrown when I bought the property. It produces a few fruits every year, but I'd never try one.

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  13. Hi VP, what an educational letter. We have the little ornamental quinces here, I keep them quite small, about the knee high and wide and covered in blooms. My daughter Semi has cutting grown ones from my garden and she has huge fruit on hers, they look like smallish yellow apples. Can these be eaten, or must they have loads of sugar to make jam? I love manchego and the jam combo with a nice crusty loaf, yummy!
    Frances

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  14. Sounds interesting. I don't think I have ever seen a quince for sale in our stores here in texas. The quince bushes are ornamental.

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  15. We have an ornamental variety in our garden
    I can't remember the last time I visited Lytes Carey it was soooo long ago

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  16. Much to my shame I only recently found out that there is a national collection of quinces only three miles or so down the road from me! I will have to get there soon to see if they sell any plants. I saw a quince tree in fruit at the end of September and it was a real beauty.

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  17. Emmat - strangely I'd thought of him too. And the recipe link I've given is suitable for both types of quince.

    Gail - it looks like a very knobbly pear doesn't it? However, you can't eat them off the tree in our climate

    Reader Wil - I suspect they will be available somewhere in The Netherlands :)

    MMD - they can be a bit of a thug can't they?

    Frances - the recipe link I've given says you can use ornamental quinces too :)

    Deb - perhaps you could try making the jam with your fruit?

    David - welcome! It's well worth a return visit to Lytes Cary Manor

    Anna - they are lovely and it sounds like you need to check that National Collection out!

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  18. I love quinces, Even if they are so hard to cut and peel. Great Q.

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  19. Hi Spacedlaw - thanks for your visit. I'm coming over for a neb at yours now...

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  20. Hi VP,
    just catching up on the blogosphere after my hols - not sure if there are quinces left as I've been away for 10 days, but if there are we might take you up on your offer as our jam chef is on sabbatical!

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  21. Hi RPF - I trust you had a good time? From EmmaT's account on ANGL it seems that Dan Pearson was on top form last week.

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