Quince is the only member of the genus Cydonia and belongs to the Rosaceae family which includes apples and pears. The fruit is native to the Hyrcanian Forest region south of the Caspian Sea and was first cultivated around the Mediterranean. The fruit was often referred to as a ‘golden apple’ and could withstand the extreme heat of Mesopotamia.

Today, quince is commonly grown in Western Asia, south-eastern Europe, parts of Latin America and in California. In Australia, the fruit is predominately farmed in the coastal, tablelands and inland regions of New South Wales.

Growth and harvest

Quince is a highly adaptable plant that can grow in a range of climates from subtropical to cool and temperate regions. The plant is prone to quince fleck — a seed and aphid-borne virus that causes dark spots or marks – in overly moist conditions. It is recommended plants undergo chilling for good fruit production and are provided with sufficient irrigation in dry, hot conditions. The plant flourishes in heavy, moist soil and can be planted next to creek banks.

Quince trees are deciduous and can grow anywhere between 5-8m high and 4-6m wide. The leaves are alternately arranged and can vary between 60–110 mm in size. Harvesting in Australia occurs from mid-February in warmer regions to late-April in cooler regions. Fruit should be removed from the stem with sharp garden sheers. Once the fruit is harvested, it should be stored in a cool place to fully ripen.

Flavour profile and appearance

Quince is pome-shaped like apples and pears and are dark gold when they are at peak ripeness. They grow 70-120mm long and 60-90 mm wide and have a fragrant, hard flesh. Underripe quinces are green or yellow in colour.

Quince is rich in tannins, making the fruit highly astringent when eaten raw. It is always cooked before consumption and becomes soft and dense when ready. Cooked quince turns a rosy colour and has a piquant flavour with hints of apple, pear and citrus.

Culinary applications

Slow-cooking and poaching methods are the best way to consume quince. The skin can be left on or peeled depending on the desired application. Quince is stewed and seasoned with spices such as cinnamon, clove and star anise.

Image credit: Modern Farmer