coing (French), irasagar (Basque), Quitte (German), cotogna (Italian), membrillo (Spanish), marmelo (Portuguese), kwee (Dutch), kvæde (Danish), kvitten (Swedish), kvede (Norweigian), kvitteni (Finnish), ayva (Russian), pigwa (Polish, dunja (Serbo-Croat), gutuie (Romanian), dyulya (Bulgarian), kydoni (Greek), ayva (Turkish), habush (Hebrew), safarjal (Arabic/Persian), wen po (Chinese), marumero (Japanese)
Unripe fruit have a downy skin, while ripened fruit have the smooth texture of its relatives. Raw quinces are inedible, but they make excellent natural air fresheners. For instance, if a quince is kept in the glove compartment of a car, it will shrivel but will not rot, and will fill the car with a delicious aroma for up to six months.
Quinces originated in Turkestan and Persia, but are now grown all over Europe, as well as other parts of the world. It is speculated that quinces were the fruit referred to as “apples” in myths and legends.
They were once widely grown in Britain from the 16th to the 18th centuries, but popularity has since declined. In Spain, they are still highly prized and are used to make a thick fruit paste called ‘membrillo‘,
which is made by boiling quince with sugar to make a paste. It is xceedingly high in calories because of all the sugar that is required.
After cooling, it is cut into squares and served with soft cheeses. The French equivalent is known as cotignac.
is similar to the paste, but softer and more spreadable.
Quinces are also popular in Latin American countries, especially Uruguay, where there are large plantations devoted to their growth.
Quinces are never eaten raw, only cooked. Its flesh is hard with many seeds and too sour and astringent to eat raw, but its delicate flavour develops into something quite delicious if stewed with a sweetener.
In order to help peel the skin easier, the quince can be parboiled for about ten minutes. When quinces are cooked, the heat and the acids in the fruit convert the colourless leucoanthocyanin pigments to red anthocyanins, thus turning its flesh from pale yellow to a pink or red.
Cooking also transforms the strong unpleasant astringent taste to a more mellow flavour, halfway between that of an apple and a pear. Because of their high pectin content, found mainly in the skin, quinces make an excellent jelly. In fact, the Portuguese name for the quince is the origin of the English word “marmalade”, a type of preserve originally made from this fruit.
In Persian cuisine, quinces and other sour fruits are often cooked together with meats. This combination is also found in Morocco and such parts of eastern Europe as Romania, as well as in Spanish cooking.
However, it is Turkey where the quince is most often used. They distinguish the various kinds from “ekmek ayvasi“,
which is a roundish, yellow, sweet quince, and “limon ayvasi“,
which is larger, oblong, green variety with a sour flavour.
The most common use for them in Britain is in the making of pastries, and are often added with apple to bring out a pinkish colour and an interesting flavour to the dish.
Quince preserves were popular until quite recently, but remain of little interest to Americans. Several oriental quinces (genus Chaenomeles)
are available in China and Japan.
One variety is the Japonica quince,
which is cultivated in Japan. These hard yellowish fruits are virtually inedible raw, but can be cooked and used like quinces. Their aroma is less intense, but they make good additions to pies and tarts, jellies, and quince cheese.