Nothing gladdens the heart on a cold Winter’s day so much as a vase of cheery red or delicate soft pink-and-white or even virginal white sprays of Chaenomeles, nor the warmth, taste and sweet aroma of a jar of quince paste made from the golden fruit of Cydonia! In this post, I will be featuring both these plants, long-time favourites of mine and an essential element of every old-fashioned garden. Unfortunately, our tiny plants of flowering quince have only just started producing flower buds- in fact, they have not even lost all their leaves yet and our new quince tree is years away from bearing fruit, so I have used some images from http://www.pixabay.com, as well as old personal photos from our previous gardens. We also saw some wonderful old shrubs of 3 different colours (red/ white/ pink-and-white) blooming in the old garden at Bolobek, Mount Macedon, Victoria.
Chaenomeles, pronounced ‘kee-mom-ee-lees’, are also known as Flowering Quinces or Japonicas, though the latter really refers to the origin of one of the species (Japan) and also refers to camellias.
Extremely tough, low maintenance, heritage ornamental plants, they originated in China, Japan, Korea, Bhutan and Burma and their beautiful blooms are often depicted in oriental paintings.
Family : Rosaceae : 5 petals and 5 sepals : Includes apples and pears, strawberries, potentilla, cotoneaster and roses.
Genus : Chaenomeles: Derived from Greek words : Chaino, meaning ‘to gape’ and Melon, meaning ‘apple’, referring to the erroneous belief that the fruit splits open.
Originally placed in the genus Pyrus, then Cydonia, then back to Pyrus and finally Chaenomeles.
Chaenomeles are related to quinces (Cydonia oblonga) and Chinese Quince (Pseudocydonia sinensis), but are different to them in that there is no fuzz on the leaves of Chaenomeles and the flowers have deciduous sepals and styles, which are connate at the base.
Species : There are 3 species :
1.Chaenomeles speciosa : Ornamental Quince/ Chinese Flowering Quince
‘Speciosa’ means ‘showy’.
Native to China and Korea, they were introduced to Europe in 1784 by Joseph Banks as Pyrus japonica.
6-10 feet tall and wide.
Flowers are red, white or flecked with red and white.
Hard green apple-shaped fruit 5-6cm diameter.
2.Chaenomeles japonica : Kusa-boke (草木瓜) : Japanese Quince (japonica means Japanese) or Maule’s Quince, named after the Bristol nurseryman W Maule, who introduced the plant to Britain in 1869.
Smaller and suckers freely.
Flowers mainly red, but some varieties are pink or white.
Small golden apple –shaped fruit 3-4 cm wide and containing red-brown seeds.
3.Chaenomeles cathayensis : ‘cathayensis’ means ‘Chinese’, referring to its origin in China, as well as Bhutan and Burma.
6m tall shrub.
White or pink flowers.
Largest fruit of the genus 10-15mm long and 6-9cm wide.
- x superba : C. speciosa x C. x japonica
- x vilmoriniana : C. speciosa x C. cathayensis
- x clarkiana : C. japonica x C. cathayensis
- x californica : C. x superba x C. cathayensi
There are up to 500 named varieties of Chaenomeles including :
- C.speciosa varieties :
Moorlooseii : Apple Blossom : 6 foot tall; spreading habit; large pink and white flowers 3.5cm across; coral buds open to white flowers, which turn pink as they age.
Nivalis : 6 foot tall; large white flowers.
Geisha Girl : compact; semi-double salmon pink flowers.
Yukigoten : 1.5m tall and wide; semi-double white flowers.
Toyo-Nishiki: 6-10 foot tall and wide with pink, red and white flowers all on the same branch, as well as within the same flower.
Contorta: 2-3 foot tall and wide with twisted, contorted dark brown branches and pink and white flowers.
Double Take™ series: Scarlet Storm; Orange Storm and Pink Storm : 4 foot tall and wide; thornless; fruitless; double flowers in scarlet or orange or pink.
Rosea plena : semi-double pale rose pink flowers.
Falconet Charlet : semi-double salmon-pink and rose flowers.
Red Kimono : red flowers; thornless.
Winter Cheer : compact- 2-3 foot high; scarlet red flowers- one of the first to flower in late Autumn/early Winter.
Simonii : prostrate dwarf, spreading habit; semi-double dark red flowers.
The flowering quinces, which we have planted in our garden, are all C. speciosa varieties : Apple Blossom 2-3m tall and wide; White Flowering Quince 1.5m tall and 1m wide; and Red Flowering Quince 1m tall and 1m wide.
2. C.japonica varieties
Fuji: upright; vase-shaped; thornless; single red flowers.
Orange Beauty : 1.2m tall and 1.5m wide; orange red flowers.
- C.x superba varieties
Rowallane : developed early years of last century; bright red flowers.
Crimson & Gold: 1-1.5m tall and 1.5-2.5m wide; suckers easily, so makes a good hedge; flowers are dark red with a gold middle.
Nicoline : small shrub; single scarlet flowers.
Knaphill Scarlet : flame red flowers.
Hollandia: single scarlet flowers; thorns.
Texas Scarlet: 2-3 foot tall; red flowers.
Fire Dance : C. x superb x C. speciosa : red flowers followed by a heavy crop of fragrant fruit.
Colombia: deep red flowers.
Vermilion : orange flowers.
Pink Lady : dark pink flowers.
Cameo: compact, low and spreading; double pink and white flowers.
Minerva: compact; flowers range from white to pale peach and pink.
Jet Trail: ground cover with white flowers.
Lemon & Lime : greenish flowers.
Deciduous shrub, up to 3m tall and wide, though dwarf varieties can be 1m tall and up to 2m wide.
Multi-stemmed, they sucker freely to form dense thickets.
Long, thin, sharp thorns along their stems, so they should not be planted along paths and care should be taken when pruning or weeding.
They are one of the first flowers in Winter, their flowers appearing on bare stems from early Winter to early Spring, when the foliage reappears. The flowers are 3 – 4.5 cm wide, have 5 petals and a boss of golden stamens in the middle and are borne in clusters. They come in a wide variety of colour (white, pink, salmon and red) and form (mostly single, but some semi-double and double). They bloom for 2 months and deepen in colour as they age. The flowers are hermaphroditic (both male and female organs in the one flower) and are pollinated by bees.
Leaves are oval, glossy, simple and dark green; have a serrated edge and are alternately arranged.
Fruit : pome with 5 carpels, borne in Autumn; it looks and smells like a quince, but is inferior to the latter. Hard and astringent, it is softer and less tart after bletting (softening with fermentation process); Higher in Vitamin C than lemons and more pectin than apples or quinces; can still be made into liqueurs and preserves like paste, jelly and marmalade. Alice Coates in her book ‘Garden Shrubs and Their Histories’ describes a tea party during the First World War, in which Reverend JJ Jacobs serves jelly made from 6 different varieties of C. speciosa.
Use in the Garden
While the Victorians grew them as standards, today they are grown as :
An open bush or shrub; in massed plantings in a woodland garden or as an early Spring accent in a mixed shrub border; or as a wall shrub.
They can be espaliered on a wall or in a fan-shape. Once the flexible branches are tied to the horizontal framework, the side growths can be pruned back to a couple of buds in Summer.
They can even be made into bonsai plants : see http://guide.makebonsai.com/bonsai_species_guide_training.asp?SpeciesID=5062&Name=Chaenomeles_japonica.
They make an excellent impenetrable thorny security hedge, deterring people, dogs and cats and even deer, but not rabbits! They provide excellent wildlife habitats, especially for nesting birds and are a good bee plant, providing both nectar and pollen. They are the food plant for the larvae of some Lepidoptera : Brown Tail (Euproctis chrysorrhea)and Leaf Miner (Bucculatrix pomifoliela). Here is my daughter’s latest feature plant watercolour, depicting a very colourful abstract rabbit wearing a floral crown of Japonica blooms!
Climate: Wide climatic range and can be grown everywhere in Australia except the tropics. They can tolerate cold up to minus 25 degrees Celsius. Because they are one of the first deciduous flowers to appear, they can be damaged by severe frosts, so avoid planting them in frost pockets.
Growing in sun or part-shade, they flower better when planted in sunny positions.
Soil : They also tolerate a wide range of soils from acid to slightly alkali, but will become chlorotic (yellowing leaves due to insufficient chlorophyll) on very alkaline soils. They do best in a fertile, neutral, well-drained soil. They don’t like wet feet. They tolerate heavy clay soils, but are not as vigorous.
They are really tough plants, coping both with drought and urban atmospheric pollution. Windy areas should be avoided, as the wind can snap the branches.
Planting and Care :
Buy plants in late Winter/ early Spring, when the plants are blooming so you can select the desired colour. There is a big variation in all the colours, especially the red hues!
Dig a hole no deeper than the depth of the soil in the pot, but twice as wide.
If the soil is clay, add grit to the clay or grow your plants in a raised bed of loose topsoil and compost. Avoid frost pockets or very windy locations, as the wind can snap the branches.
After planting, water well and mulch to suppress the weeds and retain soil moisture. Weeding can be perilous with all the sharp thorns and you don’t want unsightly Kikuya marring the picture-perfect blooms! Water at the base of the plants, as spraying water at the top will encourage rot.
Water well in the first year, then reduce the amount and frequency of watering once established, except in times of drought, when irrigation will promote more growth and better flowering.
A slow release fertilizer or compost can be applied in early Spring.
To avoid the development of a thorny thicket, pull out suckers as they appear. They can be pruned to any shape and size and will tolerate heavy pruning, though really it is best to keep it light. Prune just after the blooming is over, as the bush blooms on old wood. One source I read suggested removing one third of the oldest shoots right back to the ground each Spring, so that the centre does not become woody and congested and the flowers are shown off to their best advantage. That’s if you can get in there, that is!!! Otherwise, just remove any shoots growing in the wrong direction or any diseased wood.
Pests and Diseases :
They have few pests and diseases : occasional attacks by aphids, scab, brown scale or mites; fungal leaf spot during heavy Spring rain, which causes defoliation of the leaves, and the worst case scenario: fireblight, a bacterial disease common to all members of the Rosaceae family, which spreads through the plant’s vascular system until the plant eventually dies.
Cuttings are best. Take cuttings from half-ripe wood (new season’s growth) in Summer or mature wood (current year’s growth) in late Autumn and plant in a cold frame.
Layering can be done in late Spring and Autumn, but it takes a whole year to produce new plants.
Seeds can be planted as soon as they are ripe in a sheltered position outdoors or in a cold frame and germinate within 6 weeks. Seed can be stored in the greenhouse in Winter. Prick out the seedlings and plant in individual pots. Plant out in Summer and protect the first Winter or plant out in the following late Spring.Uses : Chaenomeles make stunning indoor floral arrangement during a time when very few other plants are flowering. The blooms last well in water (vase life 3-10 days). Flowers should be picked when the buds are showing some colour, as tight buds will not open inside unless forced. The colour of the newly opened buds inside will be paler than those on the shrub outside.
To force stems to bloom indoors in late Winter:
The best flowers for forcing are near the top of the plant with the buds swollen and closely placed. The larger the bud, the more quickly it will open indoors.
Trim any side shoots or buds which will be under the water level of the vase.
Recut the stems on a long diagonal and place in a bucket of cold water in a cool place for 2 days.
Recut the stems again and place in a vase of fresh warm water and keep in a bright area. Within 4 weeks, you will have a beautiful bouquet, which will hold its blooms for 10 days or more.
Flowering Quince are popular in Ikebana, the art of Japanese floral arranging, as its long stems can be bent and shaped and the flowers are long-lasting, even when out of water (2-3 days).
- C. speciosa has been widely used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The greenish-yellow unripe fruit is picked in late Summer/ early Autumn, blanched to a grey-white colour with boiling water, then cut in half lengthwise and dried. It relaxes the tendons, muscles and meridiens.
All Chaenomeles fruit has analgesic, anti-inflammatory; anti-spasmodic; astringent and digestive properties. It contains organic acids (malic; tartaric; fumaric; citric; ascorbic) and saponins, which reduce pain and spasms.
Chaenomeles has been used to treat the following conditions: sunstroke; arthritis and joint pain and swelling; muscle spasm; cholera and associated cramps; nausea, colic and indigestion; diarrhoea.
Cydonia oblonga (pronounced : sigh-doh-nee-uh ob-LON-guh )History:
As already stated, the Cydonia genus originally contained the 3 shrubby quinces, now classified in the genus Chaenomeles, leaving the quince as the only member of the Cydonia genus today. The name, Cydonia, refers to the ancient Greek name of the Cretan town ‘Chania’. The latter was called ‘Cydon’ in Minoan times, a name, which is thought to be a corruption of the ancient Greek word ‘Chthonia’, meaning wet, rich and soily grounds, referring to the fertile dense forests, which once covered Crete. The Arabs are thought to be responsible for the name change of the city. When the Saracens from Cordoba, Spain razed the original town to the ground in 828AD, they built a new city with a suburb called ‘Al Chania Kome’, after the God’ Velchanos’ or ‘Vulcan’. They then applied the name ‘Al Chania’ to the whole city and after they left, the Byzantines removed the prefix ‘Al’ and the city became ‘Chania’. The species name ‘oblonga’ refers to the oblong shape of the fruit.
The modern name ‘Quince’ originated in the 14th century as a plural of quoyn, derived from the old French cooin from the Latin cotoneum malum / cydonium malum.
Quinces originated on the rocky slopes and woodland margins of SW Asia, including the Caucasus, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Asia Minor. They have been cultivated for over 2000 years for their edible fruit and seeds. They predate the cultivation of apples in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and were known to the Akkadians as supurgillu. They play a significant role in mythology and could possibly even been the fruit of temptation in the biblical story of Adam and Eve. They are the golden apple of the Garden of the Hesperides and Homer’s Odyssey, in which Hercules steals golden apples from Zeus for his 11th labour. See: http://www.itmonline.org/articles/chaenomeles/chaenomeles.htm . It was with the quince that Paris awarded Aphrodite (http://www.uexpress.com/tell-me-a-story/2014/12/7/the-golden-apple-of-discord-a) and that Atalanta paused in her race (http://quatr.us/greeks/religion/myths/atalanta.htm)
The quince was cultivated by the Ancient Greeks and Romans and dedicated to Aphrodite (the Roman Venus), the Goddess of Love. It is a symbol of beauty, love, fertility and happiness and the fruit was given to every Greek bride on her wedding day. Eating quinces at a wedding was said to be preparative to the sweet and delightful days between married persons! Quinces are planted in the Balkans on the birth of a baby promising fertility, love and a happy life.
It was introduced to Britain in 1254 on the marriage of Eleanor (1241-1290) of Castile to the elder son of King Henry III, Edward I and were planted at the Tower of London. The Spanish love quince cheese, a sweet quince confection called ‘mermelada’, the original marmalade, whose name derives from the Portuguese word for quince: ‘marmelo’. It was only in the 18th century that citrus fruit were identified with the making of marmalade!
In 1292, the quince was held in high esteem. The cost of 100 quinces was 4s, compared with 3d for 100 apples and pears. However, by the early 20th century, quince production had decreased due to the rising popularity of apples and pears. They were introduced to the New World and Australia and New Zealand, where many of them are now wild. They are now rare in America due to their destruction by fireblight with only 100ha in production, mainly in California.
Worldwide, there are 43000 (106,000 acres) of quince in production, the total crop weighing 335 000 metric tons. Turkey is the largest producer, with 25 percent of the world’s crop, while China, Iran, Argentina and Morocco each produce less than 10 per cent of the world’s crop. There are 23 named varieties in production, including ‘’Champion’; ‘Isfahan’; ‘Morava’; ‘Vrajna’; and ‘Smyrna’ (our tree). ‘Champion’, an American variety, has large golden pear-shaped fruit with a slightly lemony fragrance mid to late season. Their fruit becomes a superb ruby red colour when cooked. ‘Smyrna’, originating in the Greek islands, but a favourite variety in Turkey, has rounder, slightly oblong fruit, which keep longer and have a stronger fragrance, but less prominent, but still excellent flavour. Maggie Beer (see later) likes this variety, because the white flesh holds its shape when cooking and doesn’t break up. It is also the best for quince paste.Description : A multi-stemmed shrub or small deciduous tree, 5-8m tall and 4-6m wide and takes 10-20 years to reach maturity. Our Smyrna quince will grow to 7m high and 7.5m wide. They are very long-lived and become increasingly gnarled and twisted with age.
The leaves are alternately arranged and are simple with entire margins and are covered with a dense pubescence of fine white hairs. The flowers appear after the leaves in Spring and are single; solitary; 4-5 cm diameter; pink and white and scented with 5 petals; 20 stamens; 5 styles and an inferior ovary with many ovules. Having hermaphroditic flowers, quinces are self-fertile, but can have larger yields of fruit from cross-pollination with another quince variety in the garden. They are pollinated by insects.
The fruit is a golden-yellow pome 7-12 cm long and 6-9cm wide. When immature, it has a dense grey-white pubescence, which rubs off before maturity in late Autumn, as the colour turns golden. In Australia, it is harvested between mid-February in warmer ares and late April in cooler areas. The stringy perfumed flesh is high in pectin, which decreases as the fruit ripens, but apart from a few varieties, generally, the fruit is too hard and astringent to eat raw, unless bletted.Growing Conditions:
Like its flowering namesake, Quinces are extremely tough and hardy. They are resistant to frost and hardy to minus 15 degrees Celsius. They require a minimum 500 hours of chilling to produce fruit i.e. less than 7 degrees Celsius, so thrive in cold climates. They are adapted to hot, dry climates and need warm sun to fully ripen the fruit. They are grown in Australia from the cool subtropics to the cool temperate areas.
As already stated, they perform best in a sunny position. They still grow well in semi-shade, but produce less fruit and can tolerate deep shade, but produce no fruit.
They like moist, fertile, light, slightly acidic soils best and hate water-logged soils. In highly alkaline soils, they become stunted and suffer iron chlorosis.
They can withstand both drought and severe cold, but avoid planting on south-facing slopes with a cold Spring (lack of pollinating insects); frosty hollows (flower damage and resultant lack of fruit) and excessive wind (broken branches).Planting and Care : Plant in late June/ early July when dormant. They may sucker as a young tree, so prune for the first few years to produce an open-crowned tree rather than a small thicket, which is much harder for control of pests and diseases. Prune minimally when older, as fruit sets on the current year’s growth. They like organic matter, so put some compost in the planting hole and feed 1-2 times a year with compost, aged manure or blood-and-bone. They don’t like being shifted. We bought the Smyrna quince tree photographed below for our friend’s 50th birthday- it’s the first tree in their orchard!Propagation : is mainly by cutting and grafting. Cuttings of mature wood are taken in Autumn and grown in a cold frame. Layering in Spring takes a full year to produce a new plant. Seed can also be sown, as soon as it is ripe, as well as in late Winter in a cold frame . Seedlings should be pricked out and kept in individual pots in the cold frame for the first Winter, planting out in their permanent position in late Spring and early Summer after the last frosts have passed.For more information on quince growing, see : http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/2009-67-1-cydonia-oblonga-the-unappreciated-quince.pdf;
and http://landscapeplants.aub.edu.lb/Plants/GetPDF/5afa6d23-24d5-490a-84c5-adc153b0a2c6.Pests and Diseases:
The worst one is Fireblight, which is common to apples, pears and quinces and is caused by a bacteria Erwinia amylova, which is particularly prevalent in areas with warm, humid Summers, thereby restricting its cultivation. Cydonia is one of the most susceptible of the Rosaceae family to fireblight, which spreads through the vascular system , eventually destroying the tree. The leaves and branches appear scorched and blackened, as if damaged by fire. To avoid, do not use excessive nitrogen and do not prune much. There is no cure, only prevention, though genetic modification may help.
My tree suffers from Fleck or Quince Leaf and Fruit Spot, caused by a fungus: Diplocarpon mespili ( formerly Fabraeae maculata). Symptoms include : reddish purple spots with tan centres and reddish halo on the leaves, which drop early; defoliation; brown spots on the fruit; disfigurement of fruit. Cool wet weather favours the development of the disease in Spring and it is worse in moist coastal areas. To treat, rake up and burn all the fallen leaves and remove affected leaves and dead wood and do not overhead irrigate. There are treatments with fungicide. See : http://pnwhandbooks.org/plantdisease/quince-leaf-spotPowdery mildew and rust can also be a problem. The main pests are Fruit Fly , Codling Moth and Light Brown Apple Moth. See : https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/plants/fruit-and-vegetables/a-z-list-of-horticultural-insect-pests/queensland-fruit-fly ;
https://www.greenharvest.com.au/PestControlOrganic/Information/CodlingMothControl.html; and http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/pests-diseases-and-weeds/pest-insects-and-mites/light-brown-apple-moth-in-orchards for treatment. It is worth getting on to them, especially in new trees, as it is a very long arduous job, cutting out all the rotten bits and really scarcely worth it!!!
Other pests include : Pear and Cherry Slug Worm; Borers; Curculio; Scale and Tent Caterpillars. Birds can also cause damage to the fruit.Uses :
- An attractive display tree in the garden : superb Autumn colour.
- The quince is the food plant for a number of Lepidoptera larvae:
Brown Tail Euproctis chrysorrhea; Bucculatrix bechsteinella; Bucculatrix pomelifoliella; Coleophora cerasivarella; Coleophora malivorella; Green Pug and Winter Moth.
- Dwarfing Pear Root Stock
In England, France and the United States of America, the plant is widely used as a dwarfing pear root stock, the technique having been used in Angers, France before the 1500s using quince as a root stock dwarfs pear growth. It forces earlier fruiting and faster maturing of the pear fruit and encourages the growth of more fruit-bearing branches.4.Medicine
The fruit has been used since ancient times and its use was described in writings by the Greek physician Theophrastus in 300 BC and the Roman physician Pliny the Elder(23AD-79AD). Persian philosopher, Avicenna (1025 AD), notes in his ‘Canon of Medicine’ that quince can be used to control abnormal uterine bleeding. A review in 2015 found that this effect was achieved by inhibiting inflammation and counteracting the proliferation of human cervical cancer cells. The Canon of Medicine was an overview of the contemporary medical knowledge, largely influenced by Galen and thus Hippocrates and remained a medical authority for centuries. It set the standards for medicine in Medieval Europe and the Islamic World and was used as a standard medical textbook throughout the 18th century in Europe. It is still used in Unani medicine , a traditional medicine used in India.
Culpepper (1616-1654) advised bald men to mix the silky down of the quince skin with wax and apply to their scalps to encourage hair retention and new hair growth.
The seeds of the quince contain nitriles, like all the Rosaceae family, which are hydrolyzed in the stomach by enzymes and/or stomach acid to produce hydrogen cyanide, a volatile gas, which is toxic, so large quantities of seed should not be ingested. However, used carefully, the seed are very useful in a wide variety of conditions. They are a mild, but reliable, laxative and have astringent and anti-inflammatory properties. When soaked in water, the seed swells to a mucilaginous mass, which has a soothing demulcent when taken internally and can be applied externally to minor burns. In subcontinental Indo-Pakistan, the seeds, known as Bihi Dana, are soaked in water to produce a gel, which is used by herbalists to treat throat and vocal cord inflammation; skin rashes and ulcers and allergies. The stem bark can also be used to treat ulcers. The fruit and juice can be used as a mouth wash or gargle for mouth ulcers gum problems and sore throats. The soaked seeds are used in the treatment of respiratory diseases, especially in children. In Iran and Afghanistan, the boiled seeds are eaten raw for pneumonia. The unripe fruit is very astringent and quince syrup can be used to treat diarrhoea. In Malta, 1 tsp quince jam in 1 cup boiling water relieves intestinal discomfort. The fruit contains pectin, which reduces blood pressure. These are just a few of the medicinal benefits of Cydonia oblonga. For more information, please read : http://www.idosi.org/gv/gv14%284%2915/9.pdf.
The mucilage from the seed coat has even been used as a gum arabic substitute to add more gloss to material, but its greatest claim to fame is in the culinary world, even from Ancient Roman times! Apicius, a ancient Roman cookbook from 4th-5th century BC (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/29728/29728-h/29728-h.htm) recommends stewing quinces with honey or combining them with leeks!Cooking:
They can be eaten raw and soft in tropical climates, the best varieties being ‘Aromatnaya’ and ‘Kuganskaya’, but generally they are best cooked before consumption. The fruit will keep for months after picking, scenting the room with its sweet, spicy aroma.
Once peeled, they can be roasted, baked or stewed, the colour of the flesh deepening to a caramel red, the longer the cooking time. They can be poached in wine or water. Their high pectin content make them ideal for making quince jam, quince jelly and quince cheese. Small amounts of quince can enhance the flavour of apple pies and jams. In Italy, they are the main ingredient of a traditional food called mostarda di frutta, in which quince fruit jam is mixed with candied fruit, spices and flavourings to produce regional variations eg: mostarda vicentina; mostarda di Vicenza and mostarda veneta. In Spain, quince flesh is eaten with cheese and in boiled desserts, but their favourite confection is the sweet fragrant jelly-like Dulce de membrillo, which is cut into slices and served with cheese. Portugal also makes a similar dish called marmelada, as do the Balkans, Hungary and Dalmatia. In Albania, Kosovo and Bulgaria, quinces are eaten raw in Winter. Quinces (known as ‘Ftua/ Ftonj) are stewed in a sugar syrup in Albania, while in Kosovo, they makes a quince jam, as does Lebanon and Syria (where the jam is called’ sfarjel’).In Syria, quinces are cooked in pomegranate paste and served with shank meat and kibbels. Morocco uses quince in their lamb tagines, along with other herbs and spices. Quince is also popular with lamb dishes in Armeria, as well as in other savory and sweet dishes.
In Iran, ‘beh’ is eaten raw, stewed, pickled, or made into soups or jam, the leftover syrup saved for use in a refreshing Summer drink with iced water and a few drops of lime juice.With its high malic acid content, quinces are used to make a sweet dessert wine, high in alcohol, as well as liqueurs : Liqueur de coing is a digestif in Alsace, France and the Valais in Switzerland; and sburlone in Parma, Italy; as well as a brandy and liqueur in the Balkans. There is even a Quince cider!So, there is a lot of experimentation to do in my kitchen , when my little Quince tree finally bears fruit!!! Here in Australia, chef Maggie Beer’s name is synonomous with the quince. See: https://www.maggiebeer.com.au/visit-usOn her property, ‘Pheasant Farm’ in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, she planted 350 Smyrna quince trees, which she uses to make her famous Quince Paste, as well as quince wine; quince jelly; quince conserve; quince glaze; quince puree; preserved quinces and pickled quince (see photo above). She also uses them in flat quince tarts; poaches them with pears in verjuice and bakes them, stuffed with walnuts butter and brown sugar or honey. You can read more about her quince adventures by visiting her and reading her books: Maggie’s Farm and Maggie’s Orchard. See: https://www.penguin.com.au/contributors/129/maggie-beer and https://cheznuts.com.au/guest-chef/guest-chef-maggie-beer/.We visited her farm back during our Australian trip in 2008 and I ended up by mistake in her TV kitchen, where I was photographed posing behind her kitchen counter by a visiting tour group! On our heritage rose trip to the Heritage Garden in Clare, South Australia in November 2014, we discovered that our host Walter Duncan was growing a whole orchard of quince trees for Maggie Beer! The quince orchard can be seen in the background of the photo below.CHINESE QUINCE
The final quince that I should touch on is the Chinese Quince Pseudocydonia sinensis, also the sole species in its genus Pseudocydonia. It is closely related to Chaenomeles, but lacks thorns and bears its flowers singly rather than in clusters. It looks superficially like Cydonia oblonga, to which it is also closely related, but its leaves have serrated edges and no fuzz. It is native to China and East Asia, where it is known as ‘mugua’ and ‘mogwa’ in Korea.
Description: It is an attractive deciduous or semi-evergreen tree , 10-18m tall, with a dense twiggy crown and a mottled trunk, which tends to flute with age and exfoliating bark, revealing patches of brown, green, orange and grey. The shiny leathery leaves are simple and alternately arranged and have a serrated margin. They turn a red orange in Autumn. Its single, pink, 2.5-4cm wide, Spring flowers are earlier than Cydonia , but after Chaenomeles. The large, oval pome, 12-17cm long, has 5 carpals and ripens in late Autumn. The fruit is highly aromatic with an intense, sweet smell. It is hard and astringent, but softens and becomes less tart after frost.
Propogation: Chinese quinces are propagated by seed, cuttings, rootings and grafting. As with all the quinces, seed is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. Stored seed requires 3 months cold stratification and should be sown as early in the year as possible.When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. As with the other quinces, fireblight can also be a problem.
It is grown as an ornamental tree in Europe. It also makes a lovely bonsai specimen- see: http://bonsaiunearthed.com/refinement-techniques/pseudocydonia-sinensis/.
The high pectin content of its fruit makes it ideal for jams and chutneys. The wood is used in Japan to make low-end shamisen, a three-stringed musical instrument, which is plucked with a plectrum called a bachi and which sounds a bit like an American banjo. Chinese Quince has also been used for years in traditional Chinese medicine to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis. Extracts of its phytochemicals have antioxidant and antiviral properties. For more information and a photo of this beautiful tree, please read : http://www.louistheplantgeek.com/a-gardening-journal/1053-pseudocydonia-sinensis.
Unfortunately, I cannot even find a photo, but it certainly sounds worthy of a place in the garden! If only we had the room! Maybe, I shall have to investigate a bonsai version, though I suspect it is all a bit technical for me!