August 16, 2017

Before the Apple?

Cydonia oblonga - Quince

Janine Pineo Photo | Cydonia oblonga – Quince

In late autumn, one often can find a display of golden fruit at the market, not quite an apple nor a pear. It would be the quince, or Cydonia oblonga, the only member in the genus Cydonia and kin to apples and pears. This fruit traces back through the millennia to Southwest Asia, Turkey and Iran, and it is believed that many references to apples in ancient text actually refer to quince, which may have been cultivated before apples were. Quince is a deciduous tree, growing up to 26 feet in height. White or pink flowers bloom against hairy leaves, producing a fruit that also sports fuzz until it ripens, turning a smooth, golden yellow. There are varieties that are hardy here in much of Maine, including the Smyrna quince, which is hardy to Zone 5. If you look up how to eat quince, you will find that most every source says cook it before eating. While the raw form isn’t inedible, it wasn’t until it was cooked – like applesauce – that the flavor emerged.