Sunday, October 9

A Taste of Honey

Regular visitors will be only too aware that we like to try growing something different - sometimes just to see if we can! In March last year (2010) we planted a quince tree, The variety was Meeches Prolific which we chose as it was advertised to be a reliable cropper. We had never eaten quince or even seen an edible fruiting quince growing so we didn’t really know what to expect. The only thing I really knew about quinces was that they were one of the foods eaten by The Owl and the Pussycat.

The tree arrived in January so was planted in a large pot and kept in our cold greenhouse until conditions improved. In mid-March it was planted out and by the end of April it had produced very attractive felt leaves and a few flowers.
By the end of the season it had produced three fruits. Not knowing how or when to pick the fruits or how to tell if they were ripe the short story was that we didn’t actually get a taste.

The tree over-wintered successfully and this April produced more flowers. The flowers are really lovely. So much so that when we had to choose a photograph to print on canvas we chose a photo of a quince flower.
In May it became obvious that quite a few fruits had set. The lovely leaves had been torn ragged by the wind and the tree and we had hardly any rain for three months so we were not counting our chickens.
By June the tree carried several small fruits. These were pear shaped and had a pale green felty covering similar to that of a peach.
Through July the fruits continued to swell - they were beginning to be heavy enough to make the branches weep - despite now only being given an occasional can full of water which could have hardly made up for the lack of any decent rain for five months.
In August some fruits began to loose their felty covering although some fruits still had felty patches. The fruits were then turning a apple shade of green. 
By September the fruits were the size of medium sized pears and turning yellow. This year we had read everything we could find about when to pick the fruits. Advice was to leave the fruits on the tree for as long as possible at least until October and to pick before the first frosts. Now that’s not as easy as it sounds - we had to try and judge when enough was enough. When was the risk of frost too great to leave the fruits on the tree.
By early October some of the fruits were completely smooth and yellow which is a sign that they are ripe so we decided to pick a couple to try.
Quinces are really hard fruits and can’t be eaten raw. So what do you do with quince other than making quince jelly which not really being jam eaters we wanted to avoid? A trawl of the Internet later we decided on an apple and quince crumble. We decided not to flavour with any spices so we could experience the true flavour of the quince. 

Everything I have read states that ripe quinces are fragrant and can taint any food stored alongside them so I was expecting some sort of perfume smell. As the quinces cooked they smelled of honey (not something reminiscent of a Dior concoction) and the cooked fruit tasted of honey too - well that’s as near a description as I can give. We loved it so the race was on to pick the rest of the fruits before the frosts ruined them. In all the tree produced fourteen fruits but I'm left with a huge problem. Does anyone know how to free my head from that stupid poem?

I've posted an article about quince on my website here if you are interested.


10 comments:

  1. Interesting that you should put this post up today - in the Saturday Guardian there was an article on quince too - see here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/oct/07/quince-recipes-hugh-fearnley-whittingstall?INTCMP=SRCH

    Difficult to buy fruit in shops in UK so good to grow your own.

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  2. A great coverage of the lifecycle of the Quince, Sue. Perhaps you will try making some Membrillo now??

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  3. Great post, I didn't know anything about quince until I saw GW the other night. They look great.

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  4. Hello 50decs. It's amazing - I wrote the post a few days ago since which time it was mentioned on Gardeners' World as Damo said and also was featured in a garden magazine that arrived on Friday. I guess it's because now is the time to pick them.

    I could do Mark but to be honest it isn't the sort of thing we eat. We don't eat jams and jellies either which quince is really good for as it is high in pectin.

    They are great, Damo it was a really happy discovery. I saw GW the other night and was surprised that Monty thought the fruit had a fragrance when straight off the tree - ours only gave off the honey smell when it was cooking.

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  5. Sounds like a great fruit. Really good to see the different stages of growth. Lovely flowers too. Kelli

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  6. OK, yet another fruit to put on the list for our currently entirely mythical orchard!! The crumble sounds wonderful.

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  7. I understand it makes a sprawling tree Janet so bear that in mind - worth it for those fruits though!

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  8. So glad the quince went down well with you...now I wonder if I should try...I do like honey!!

    I am going to look for other recipes so I know if it will be worth buying one!!

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  9. I'd try and find someone who has quince for you to try, Tanya but we're a bit too far away for you to pop over for a nibble of crumble. Generally you can use quinces as you would apples or pears. Crumbles, pies, tarts, jellies, poached and you can also use it in meat dishes.

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