One of the first trees we planted was a quince, quickly followed by a second one just in case the first did not make it. I am particularly fond of the first one. It is a more compact little tree with round fruits. The second quince is a different variety with a more elongated shape and more elongated fruits.
These are real quince trees Cydonia oblonga. They are in their glory now. Unlike the apricot, cherry and plum trees their blossom is preceded by the softest green leaves.
This year we were lucky with the weather and the blossoms opened in the warm spring sunshine.
The buds of the blossom are a darker pink but are a perfect match for the downy green leaves.
The petals of the open flower are veined with a darker pink.
The flowers are not in clusters like cherry blossom but are the perfect size for a bumble bee to curl up in.
The edible quince flowers later than the flowering quince, Chaemomeles . Shrubs of the Chaemomeles family produce a small fruit similar to the much larger edible quince which are edible but rarely used as they tend to be to small to use conveniently.
They give a much more flamboyant blossom of dark pink and are often prized in a garden as they flower so early in the season. My neighbour Annie’s flowering quince produced blossom at the end of March.
We had huge bouquets of these beautiful flowers in jugs in our houses which were an absolute picture – but it comes at a price. They can be very invasive shrubs and difficult to keep within bounds in a small garden. They are extremely thorny whereas the edible quince has no thorns.
I think I have been traumatised by a flowering quince that I inherited in this garden. It had been allowed to take over a large area of the front garden. It was not as simple as removing all the branches above the ground with a chain-saw. The roots were so compact that they formed a huge trunk-like mass that continued some distance under the ground and was extremely difficult and time-consuming to remove. In addition, the residual roots managed to sprout new growth every spring for several years which I cut off assiduously, in terror that the thing might re-appear and flourish anew.
However, the bees love the flowering quince which provides them with much needed nourishment at this early time in the year.
I am just glad it is in Annie’s garden and not mine.
A large part of my decision to plant a quince tree was for their fruit. I love quinces but they are not always as easy to source as many other fruits. They are also generally under appreciated.
I love to see the yellow fruit with its downy coat hanging on the tree in autumn but I do not eat it raw. My quince are too hard and tough. That is not to say there are no varieties that can be eaten raw. I have eaten a raw quince in Isphahan, Iran which although very firm was fragrant and delicious but the quinces of Isphahan are famous and quinces probably originated in Iran.
I use my quinces to make jelly, jam and compote. The quince jelly can be eaten like a jam but also marries very well with savoury flavours such as meat and cheese. A cheese plate can be given an immediate upgrade by serving it with a splash of home made quince jelly. I also make a Persian lamb sauce with quince and serve it with steamed rice. The quince segments can be blanched in the autumn and frozen for use later in savoury dishes.
At the end of this month I’ll be putting up my coddling moth traps, lured with pheromones. Unfortunately, it is not only me that enjoys the quinces and the fruit is attacked by these moth larvae which bore right into the core leaving an ugly brown trail through the flesh. I was pleased with the result last year and hope it will work as well this year. I am not too precious about any damaged fruit and would prefer to cut away damaged fruit than have perfect fruit all of the time at the expense of using systemic pesticides or spraying indiscriminately.
I love my quince tree.