The quince (//; Cydonia oblonga) is the sole member of the genus Cydonia in the family Rosaceae (which also contains apples and pears, among other fruits). It is a small deciduous tree that bears a pome fruit, similar in appearance to a pear, and bright golden-yellow when mature. Throughout history the cooked fruit has been used as food, but the tree is also grown for its attractive pale pink blossom and other ornamental qualities.
The tree grows 5 to 8 metres (16 and a half feet to 26 feet) high and 4 to 6 metres (13 feet to 19 and a half feet) wide. The fruit is 7 to 12 centimetres (3 to 5 inches) long and 6 to 9 centimetres (2 to 3 and a half inches) across.
It is native to rocky slopes and woodland margins in South-west Asia, Turkey and Iran although it can be grown successfully at latitudes as far north as Scotland. It should not be confused with its relative, the Flowering Quince, (Chaenomeles).
The immature fruit is green with dense grey-white pubescence, most of which rubs off before maturity in late autumn when the fruit changes colour to yellow with hard, strongly perfumed flesh. The leaves are alternately arranged, simple, 6–11 cm (2–4 in) long, with an entire margin and densely pubescent with fine white hairs. The flowers, produced in spring after the leaves, are white or pink, 5 cm (2 in) across, with five petals.
Quince is used as a food plant by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including brown-tail, Bucculatrix bechsteinella, Bucculatrix pomifoliella, Coleophora cerasivorella, Coleophora malivorella, green pug and winter moth.
Four other species previously included in the genus Cydonia are now treated in separate genera. These are Pseudocydonia sinensis and the three flowering quinces of eastern Asia in the genus Chaenomeles. Another unrelated fruit, the bael, is sometimes called the "Bengal quince". In the famous children's poem, "The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear (1871), "they dined on mince and slices of quince ..."
The fruit was known to the Akkadians, who called it supurgillu; Arabic سفرجل al safarjal "quinces" (collective plural). The modern name originated in the 14th century as a plural of quoyn, via Old French cooin from Latin cotoneum malum / cydonium malum, ultimately from Greek κυδώνιον μῆλον, kydonion melon "Kydonian apple". The quince tree is native to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Pakistan, Kashmir, Afghanistan and was introduced to Poland, Syria, Lebanon, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Turkey, Serbia, Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Hungary, Ukraine, Moldova, and Bulgaria.
Cultivation of quince may have preceded apple culture, and many references translated to "apple", such as the fruit in Song of Songs, may have been a quince. Among the ancient Greeks, the quince was a ritual offering at weddings, for it had come from the Levant with Aphrodite and remained sacred to her. Plutarch reported that a Greek bride would nibble a quince to perfume her kiss before entering the bridal chamber, "in order that the first greeting may not be disagreeable nor unpleasant" (Roman Questions 3.65). It was with a quince that Paris awarded Aphrodite. It was for a golden quince that Atalanta paused in her race. The Romans also used quinces; the Roman cookbook of Apicius gives recipes for stewing quince with honey, and even combining them, unexpectedly, with leeks. Pliny the Elder mentioned the one variety, Mulvian quince, that could be eaten raw. Columella mentioned three, one of which, the "golden apple" that may have been the paradisal fruit in the Garden of the Hesperides, has donated its name in Italian to the tomato, pomodoro.
Quince is resistant to frost and requires a cold period below 7 °C to flower properly (yarovization). The tree is self-fertile; however, its yield can benefit from cross-fertilization. The fruit can be left on the tree to ripen further, which softens the fruit to the point where it can be eaten raw in warmer climates, but should be picked before the first frosts.
In Europe, quinces are commonly grown in central and southern areas where the summers are sufficiently hot for the fruit to fully ripen. They are not grown in large amounts; typically one or two quince trees are grown in a mixed orchard with several apples and other fruit trees: so were they grown in the 18th-century New England colonies, where there was always a quince at the lower corner of the vegetable garden, Ann Leighton notes in records of Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Newburyport, Massachusetts. Charlemagne directed that quinces be planted in well-stocked orchards. Quinces in England are first recorded in about 1275, when Edward I had some planted at the Tower of London. They are still grown successfully as far north as Scotland. Chaenomeles japonica (Japanese quince) is sometimes grown as a substitute for quince, though its fruit has an inferior flavour.
Quince was also introduced to the New World, Australia and New Zealand, where in some locations it has grown wild,. It has become rare in North America due to its susceptibility to fireblight disease caused by the bacterium Erwinia amylovora. They are still widely grown in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Almost all of the quinces in North American specialty markets come from Argentina.
Used as a rootstock for grafted plants, quince has the property of dwarfing the growth of pears, of forcing them to produce more precociously, and relatively more fruit-bearing branches, instead of vegetative growth, and of accelerating the maturity of the fruit.
|Top producers of quince - 2011|
Most varieties of quince are too hard, astringent and sour to eat raw unless "bletted" (softened by frost and subsequent decay). High in pectin, they are used to make jam, jelly and quince pudding, or they may be peeled, then roasted, baked or stewed; pectin levels diminish as the fruit ripens. The flesh of the fruit turns red after a long cooking time. The very strong perfume means they can be added in small quantities to apple pies and jam to enhance the flavour. Adding a diced quince to apple sauce will enhance the taste of the apple sauce with the chunks of relatively firm, tart quince. The term "marmalade", originally meaning a quince jam, derives from "marmelo," the Portuguese word for this fruit.
The fruit, like so many others, can be used to make a type of wine. Because of its often high acidity, which is mainly due to its malic acid content, these wines are usually sweet dessert wines that are high in alcohol.[clarification needed] In the Balkans and elsewhere, quince brandy and quince liqueur are made. In Carolina in 1709, John Lawson allowed that he was "not a fair judge of the different sorts of Quinces, which they call Brunswick, Portugal and Barbary", but he noted "of this fruit they make a wine or liquor which they call Quince-Drink, and which I approve of beyond any that their country affords, though a great deal of cider and perry is there made, The Quince-Drink most commonly purges."
Varieties of quince, such as 'Kuganskaya', have been developed that do not require cooking and are eaten raw.
In Iran, quince, called beh (به), is used raw or in stews and some regional soups. It is also made into jam or preserve. The extra syrup in the jam-making process is saved and made into a refreshing Summer drink by adding cold water and a few drops of lime to it. It can also be found pickled.
In Italy it is used as the main ingredient of some local variants of a traditional food called mostarda (not to be confused with mustard), in which quince fruit jam is mixed with candied fruit, spices and flavorings to produce a spread that is used on boiled meat, mixed with cheese, etc. Examples are "mostarda vicentina" or "mostarda di Vicenza" and "mostarda veneta." Quinces are also used in Parma to produce a typical liqueur called sburlone, the word coming from the local dialect and meaning the high pressure needed to squeeze those hard fruits to obtain their juice.
In Lebanon and Syria, it is called sfarjel and also used to make jam — Mrabba sfarjal. In Syria, quince is cooked in pomegranate paste (dibs rouman) with shank meat and kibbeh (a Middle Eastern meat pie with burghul and mince meat) and is called kibbeh safarjalieh. In Pakistan, quinces are stewed with sugar until they turn bright red. The resulting stewed quince, called muraba is then preserved in jars and eaten like jam. In Morocco, when the fruit is available, it is a popular ingredient in a seasonal lamb tajine and is cooked together with the meat and flavoured with cinnamon and other herbs and spices.
In Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Spain, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela the membrillo, as the quince is called in Spanish, is cooked into a reddish, jelly-like block or firm, reddish paste known as dulce de membrillo. It is then eaten in sandwiches and with cheese, traditionally manchego cheese, or accompanying fresh curds. In Portugal, a similar sweet is called marmelada, hence marmalade in English. It is also produced and consumed in Hungary, where it is called birsalmasajt, "quince cheese". The sweet and floral notes of carne de membrillo (quince meat) contrast nicely with the tanginess of the cheese. Boiled quince is also popular in desserts such as the murta con membrillo that combines Ugni molinae with quince. Similar dishes exist in Dalmatia and other parts of Croatia.
In Kashmir quince is cooked with lamb and served in weddings to guests.
In traditional medicine
||This section needs more medical references for verification or relies too heavily on primary sources. (September 2012)|
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||238 kJ (57 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||1.9 g|
|Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
The phytochemistry of quince is under study for several possible medical uses.
In subcontinental Indo-Pakistan, quince seeds are known as Bihi Dana. They are used by herbalists for mucus, rashes and ulcerations. A gel prepared from the seeds soaked in water is used for throat and vocal cord inflammation, as well as for skin rashes and allergies.
- In Turkey, the expression ayvayı yemek (literally "to eat the quince") is used as a derogatory term indicating any unpleasant situation or a malevolent incident to avoid. This usage is likened to the rather bitter aftertaste of a quince fruit inside the mouth.
- When a baby is born in Slavonia (Croatia), a quince tree is planted as a symbol of fertility, love and life.
- Ancient Greek poets (Ibycus, Aristophanes, e.g.) used quinces (kydonia) as a mildly ribald term for teenage breasts.
- Although the book of Genesis does not name the specific type of the fruit that Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden, some ancient texts suggest Eve's fruit of temptation might have been a quince.
- In Plutarch's Lives, Solon is said to have decreed that "bride and bridegroom shall be shut into a chamber, and eat a quince together."
The seeds contain nitriles, which are common in seeds of the rose family. In the stomach, enzymes or stomach acid or both cause some of the nitriles to be hydrolyzed and produce hydrogen cyanide, which is a volatile gas. The seeds are only likely to be toxic if a large quantity is eaten.
- Potter, D., et al. (2007). Phylogeny and classification of Rosaceae. Plant Systematics and Evolution. 266(1–2): 5–43. [Referring to the subfamily by the name "Spiraeoideae"]
- RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964.
- Olivier Lauffenburger, 2006. The Hittite Grammar Homepage, Akkadian dictionary, entry for supurgillu
- Leighton 1986:243.
- Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Guardian 7 Oct 2011
- Information from Agroforestry UK
- "Cydonia oblonga 'Vranja' Nenadovic". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
- "Statistics from: Food And Agricultural Organization of United Nations: Economic And Social Department: The Statistical Division". UN Food and Agriculture Organization Corporate Statistical Database.
- Alexander, S. The cook's companion. Penguin Australia. P.609
- Wilson, C. Anne. The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History and Its Role in the World Today (Together with a Collection of Recipes for Marmalades and Marmalade Cookery), University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia. Revised Edition 1999. ISBN 0-8122-1727-6
- "Marmalade" in Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2001 Douglas Harper apud Dictionary.com
- Lawson, A New Voyage to Carolina, 1709, quoted in Ann Leighton, American Gardens in the 18th Century: 'for Use or For Delight' , 1986:242f.
- USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). [Online Database] National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Available: http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/npgs/acc/search.pl?accid=%20CCYD+131 (20 February 2011)
- Membrillo paste from Gourmet Sleuth
- Maryam Khoubnasabjafari and Abolghasem Jouyban (2011). "A review of phytochemistry and bioactivity of quince (Cydonia oblonga Mill.)". Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 5 (15): 3577–3594.
- Cyclopaedia of Biblical, theological, and ecclesiastical literature, Volume 1 By James Strong
- Wikisource: Lives by Plutarch, translated by John Dryden: Solon
- Plants for a Future database entry for Quince
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cydonia oblonga.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Quince.|