Have you ever wondered why a quince is called a quince? Surely a name is just a name, but did you ever think that just maybe the reason quince fruits aren't as popular as apples is because of their name? It's not all that appealing to bite into something that kind of sounds more like the coins you'd find in your pocket left over from a trip abroad than say, a tasty and versatile fruit.
Before the French renamed it in the 14th century and it became a huge sensation throughout Europe and the UK, the quince was the fruit of the Persian Cydonia tree. Looking somewhat like a squat green pear, its soft and fuzzy skin, crispy, tart texture is actually rather tasty and versatile, and no you don't need to live six hundred years ago to eat it.
The quince may have in fact been the "forbidden fruit" in the Garden of Eden that tempted Eve. Loaded with vitamins A and C, It boasts many health benefits and a long history of use throughout Asia and Europe. The medicinal effects can be mainly attributed to the quince seeds, which when soaked in water form a sort of mucus that is used to soothe inflamed skin and taken internally to relieve digestive discomfort, among other ailments. Quinces eaten during pregnancy were thought to produce wise children.
"Marmalade" now means any type of fruit preserves, but it was the quince that first earned the honor.
Want to wow your friends and family this holiday season? Quince 'em.
While you may find only a sparse few in your grocery store, check with farmers markets; they're the best source for fresh, ripe quinces. Store them at room temperature, especially if they're not quite ripe yet.
You can eat raw quince, but like all worthy things, the magic comes with a little heat. The tartness relaxes when cooked and it really lets the fragrant aroma out. Use just like you would apples, pears or other stone fruits. Poached, tarts, tortes, compotes and pies are especially nice. Quince will turn pink when you cook it. Your guests will turn wide-eyed and ever so grateful at your genius, and after a while you'll rather like the way "quince" sounds, too, especially during a spot of afternoon tea. Go on, be a love and pass the quince marmalade.
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Watercolor by Amanda A Newton, courtesy of Creative Commons