Quince charm­ing

A bump on the bonce from a way­ward quince causes Toby to con­tem­plate the po­ten­tial of this in­trigu­ing fruit

Amateur Gardening - - Toby Buckland -

“They’re as easy to grow as a bram­ble”

WHEN an ap­ple fell on Isaac New­ton’s head, he came up with his sem­i­nal the­ory of universal grav­i­ta­tion, in­vented cal­cu­lus and give birth to the prin­ci­ples of mod­ern physics.

When I banged my head on a quince, I came up in a bruise… How­ever, as with the fa­ther of mod­ern science, the ex­pe­ri­ence made me see the world in a whole new light. Un­til the un­for­tu­nate col­li­sion, I didn’t know the crop of hefty fruits were even there – sur­pris­ing, look­ing at the laden branches now. And from what seemed like a bar­ren year, I have a bar­rowload, which ex­plains why the boughs had bent so low over the gar­den path.

My quince is a Cy­do­nia – not to be con­fused with the win­ter-flow­er­ing Ja­panese ver­sion (Chaenome­les

speciosa), but a small tree pro­duc­ing white spring blos­som fol­lowed by large, pear-like fruits. While Ja­panese quince are edi­ble, Cy­do­nia has a far bet­ter flavour, es­pe­cially when cooked into a wob­ble-free jelly or ‘cheese’ (see panel below) or stewed in sug­ared wa­ter or wine. It’s lovely added into ap­ple crum­bles and pies, where its vanilla and rose aroma adds a de­li­cious depth.

The Ro­mans were keen quince grow­ers and it’s easy to see why, as the trees are self-suf­fi­cient, re­quir­ing no spe­cial prun­ing and largely pest and dis­ease-free. Full sun and shel­ter are what they love, but mine thrives in part-day shade – proof, if needed, that they’re as easy to grow as a bram­ble.

‘Vranja’ is the most widely sold form, al­though Keep­ers Nurs­ery in Kent, which sells one of the widest se­lec­tions, says that ‘Meech’s Pro­lific’ is the most re­li­able, es­pe­cially in northerly climes. These two va­ri­eties have a char­ac­ter­is­tic hard flesh and gritty tex­ture that’s per­fect for cheeses, but there are also ‘sweet’ va­ri­eties that re­quire a shel­tered spot, such as ‘Ira­nian’, which is ex­cel­lent as a tarts or topped on ice cream.

Since my New­to­nian head in­jury, ground-break­ing the­o­rems sur­pris­ingly haven’t been forth­com­ing. Could this be be­cause quince fruits aren’t in­vested with the same in­tel­lec­tual stim­uli of wind­fall ap­ples? Well, that’s my the­ory…

Toby with a Ja­panese quince ‘Vranja’ is the most widely sold quince va­ri­ety ‘Meech’s Pro­lific’ is the most re­li­able

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