A freelance writer and traveller who likes to explore the spiritual, literary and hidden gems of Adelaide and beyond.
Published February 15th 2015
The underrated Quince
There is a quince tree in our orchard. Its fruit is always neglected and rejected year after year. But this year the fruit will be made into a gourmet ingredient, quince paste, not be left to languish on the tree. This year I have discovered the taste of quince and am keen to embrace this long undervalued fruit.
The quince itself looks unappealing. A sort of lumpy pear that cannot be eaten raw. The quince is in the same botanical family as apples and pears. It's a deciduous tree that is native to areas in South-west Asia, Turkey and Iran. There is a variety of quince that is flowering only. The quince transforms when cooked. Good cooks take advantage of quince in season and harvest these strange, ugly fruits.
Quinces can be poached and combined with other fruits (apples and pears) to make a delicious fruit crumble or pie. They can also be cooked down to make jams, preserves, jelly, paste, marmalade and chutneys. Quince has high levels of pectin which helps things to set. There is even mention of quince wine, which would have to be an acquired taste.
Another favourite memory of quinces is when served baked with a caramelized sugar topping. Quite simple to make, just cut in half and cover each quince half generously with butter. Sprinkle with sugar. Fill baking dish with water and bake. Leave to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving with cream or ice cream. The only drawback with quince cooking is that they do take a while to poach, but turn a lovely rosy pink in the process.
The fruit turns from green to yellow when it is ripe. Harvest time is stated as from late March to May, however our tree has a beautiful crop ready now. If you do have a quince tree languishing in your garden, or know of one, this could be your time to rediscover the joys of this humble fruit. Send on any tips for quince devotees.