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