Quince is a fruit that was highly prized by ancient civilizations, and it probably originated near the antique city of Smyrna, Turkey. The fruit was widely disseminated in artistic drawings, as wall paintings and mosaics at the lost city of Pompeii, Italy, and even though the ancient Greeks had developed and grafted quince with an exceptional quality, it is only in recent years that agricultural scientists have hybridized a fruit with a softer texture and a juicier flesh. Some modern Bible translations claim that Adam tasted in the Garden of Eden the fruit of an apple... but more likely that fruit was a quince, since apples came to the region at a much later date. Research scientists have hybridized many new cultivars of quince that far surpass the characteristics of the wild, seedling quince trees.
From the ancient city of Smyrna, Turkey, this commercially grown hybrid is now produced for supermarkets in the Deep South where migrant Mexican works buy the fruit to satisfy their Latin palate appetites. Sometimes Smyrna trees bear fruit the very first year.
Hybrid quince cultivars are usually yellow in color when ripe; however, the new "orange" quince is orange in color. The fruit when ripe emits an agreeable fruit fragrance and can be eaten raw. The tree blooms during April in Georgia and ripens in July though September, depending on which cultivar was planted. The surface of the fruit is generally woolly like a peach except for the Smyrna, which is slick and waxy. Many jelly makers prefer to pick the fruit just before ripening, when the color begins to change from green to yellow. This seals the acid content into their jelly.
Quince hybrid cultivars grow 10 to 15 feet tall because they are grafted onto a dwarfing rootstock; however, the species, ‘Cydonia oblonga,’ has grown to 35 feet in California. Many early settlers of the United States planted the seed of the European quince, ‘Cydonia oblonga,’ in their gardens. Some of these seedlings produced quince fruit the size of pears, and others grew fruit to the remarkable size of a cantaloupe. These fruits were used mainly to add a wonderful fragrance inside their rooms from the long lasting quality of the fruit. The quince fruit was also used to make jellies, jams, pies, pastes, and pectin value to include with other canned items. The quince trees and fruit are remarkably free of diseases and insect pests. The trees are very adaptable to a wide range of soil types and temperatures, and readily withstand cold damage in Zones 5-9, subjected to low temperatures of negative 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Most of the quince that is grown from seed is nationally used as a dwarfing rootstock for other fruit trees by wholesale nurserymen.
The flowers of quince trees appear in late spring after the leaves form, and the blossoms are pinkish-white with a pleasant fragrance. After the fruit begins to turn yellow in the fall, a delicious aroma is emitted from the ripening sequence, one that is unequaled by any other fruit in terms of the long period that the fragrance lasts, and the delicate quality of the aroma. The flowers of the quince tree are self fertile and require no cross pollination by bees and ants. The seedling, ungrafted quince is very different from the flowering dwarf quince, even though they both produce large fruit. Quince fruit has been shown to contain healthy minerals such as potassium, potash, and phosphorus, and is high in Vitamins C and B2.
The medicinal qualities of quince have been appreciated to be true since ancient times. Shakespeare wrote that quince was the "stomach's comforter."
Quince has many uses, such as, pies, jellies, jams, marmalades, flavorings, ice creams, and cakes.
Grafted quince trees are reliable producers of high quality fruit with little need for care or attention, and they will survive low temperatures in every state except Alaska. Try one of these collector type grafted trees for your garden.
By Pat Rick