The quince, or Cydonia oblonga, is the sole member of the genus Cydonia and native to warm-temperate southwest Asia in the Caucasus region. It is a small, deciduous tree, growing 5–8 m tall and 4–6 m wide, related to apples and pears, and like them has a pome fruit, which is bright golden yellow when mature, pear-shaped, 7–12 cm long and 6–9 cm broad.
The immature fruit is green with dense grey-white pubescence, most of which rubs off before maturity in late autumn when the fruit changes colour to yellow with hard, strongly perfumed flesh. The leaves are alternately arranged, simple, 6–11 cm long, with an entire margin and densely pubescent with fine white hairs. The flowers, produced in spring after the leaves, are white or pink, 5 cm across, with five petals.
Four other species previously included in the genus Cydonia are now treated in separate genera. These are the Chinese quince Pseudocydonia sinensis, a native of China, and the three flowering quinces of eastern Asia in the genus Chaenomeles. Another unrelated fruit, the bael, is sometimes called the “Bengal quince”.
The fruit was known to the Akkadians, who called it supurgillu; Arabic سفرجل safarjal “quinces” (collective plural).The modern name originated in the 14th century as a plural of quoyn, via Old French cooin from Latin cotoneum malum / cydonium malum, ultimately from Greek κυδώνιον μῆλον, kydonion melon “Kydonian apple”. The quince tree is native to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and was introduced to Syria, Croatia, Bosnia, Turkey, Serbia, Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Romania, Hungary, Ukraine and Bulgaria.
Cultivation of quince may have preceded apple culture, and many references translated to “apple”, such as the fruit in Song of Solomon, may have been a quince. Among the ancient Greeks, the quince was a ritual offering at weddings, for it had come from the Levant with Aphrodite and remained sacred to her. Plutarch reported that a Greek bride would nibble a quince to perfume her kiss before entering the bridal chamber, “in order that the first greeting may not be disagreeable nor unpleasant” (Roman Questions 3.65). It was a quince that Paris awarded Aphrodite. It was for a golden quince that Atalanta paused in her race. The Romans also used quinces; the Roman cookbook of Apicius gives recipes for stewing quince with honey, and even combining them, unexpectedly, with leeks. Pliny the Elder mentioned the one variety, Mulvian quince, that could be eaten raw. Columella mentioned three, one of which, the “golden apple” that may have been the paradisal fruit in the Garden of the Hesperides, has donated its name in Italian to the tomato, pomodoro
Quince is resistant to frost and requires a cold period below 7 °C to flower properly. The tree is self-fertile; however, its yield can benefit from cross-fertilization. The fruit can be left on the tree to ripen further, which softens the fruit to the point where it can be eaten raw in warmer climates, but should be picked before the first frosts.
In Europe, quinces are commonly grown in central and southern areas where the summers are sufficiently hot for the fruit to fully ripen. They are not grown in large amounts; typically one or two quince trees are grown in a mixed orchard with several apples and other fruit trees: so were they grown in the 18th-century New England colonies, where there was always a quince at the lower corner of the vegetable garden, Ann Leighton notes in records of Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Newburyport, Massachusetts. Charlemagne directed that quinces be planted in well-stocked orchards. Quinces in England are first recorded in about 1275, when Edward I had some planted at the Tower of London; they are still grown successfully as far north as Scotland. Chaenomeles japonica (Japanese quince) is sometimes grown as a substitute for quince, though its fruit has an inferior flavour.
Quince was also introduced to the New World and Australia, in temperate states, where in some locations it has grown wild, and New Zealand. It has become rare in North America due to its susceptibility to fireblight disease caused by the bacterium Erwinia amylovora. They are still widely grown in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Almost all of the quinces in North American specialty markets come from Argentina.
Used as a rootstock for grafted plants, quince has the property of dwarfing the growth of pears, of forcing them to produce more precociously, and relatively more fruit-bearing branches, instead of vegetative growth, and of accelerating the maturity of the fruit.
When a baby is born in Slavonia (Croatia), a quince tree is planted as a symbol of fertility, love and life.
And this beautiful fruit is not know well in the UK. 14 months ago