Quince is indeed an old-world fruit. It’s not shiny or sleek or ready to eat. It’s oddly shaped (sometimes bumpy) and when eaten raw, Fruit Detective David Carp likens its taste to “slightly sweetened furniture.” So what’s to love? Perfume. You should catch a whiff. It’s the same intoxicating aroma that the mystical poets of Persia must’ve had swirling around them when they wrote their ecstatic love poems.
Quince comes from the ancient lands of poets Rumi and Hafiz. It migrated from Persia to the regions of the Caucasus Mountains, becoming rooted in Turkish and Armenian cuisine. It then found its way to Europe and the Americas where it has taken well to the seasonal climate and has become fall’s last holdout, as its hardy fruit still hangs on branches when all the other leaves have turned brown. In Spain, membrillo (quince paste) is practically the national snack when paired with manchego cheese, and cotognata is a quince-based sweet much prized in Sicily. In the U.S., however, quince has fallen out of favor since WWII, when its value as a high pectin fruit for setting jam was replaced by store-bought pectin.
Author and SlowFood activist Ben Watson said, “The quince is the poster child of Slowness. It’s lovely and fragrant but pretty much inedible unless transformed by peeling, coring, and cooking. I think it is poised for a comeback.” Prepping and cooking quince is a bit of work, but the rewards definitely justify the effort. Quince poached or stewed is sublime. It lends itself perfectly to sauces, jams, and jellies, and as a paste, it’s yummy on its own and pairs deliciously with cheese. Its pale yellow flesh transforms into shades of soft pink to garnet. And if you don’t get around to cooking it for a while, it can sit on the counter filling your home with a blissful aroma.
The garden of Love is green without limit
and yields many fruits other than sorrow or joy.
Love is beyond either condition:
without spring, without autumn, it is always fresh.
Preparation: The simplest preparation is to cut in half or quarters, and poach to soften; or carefully peel, cut, de-seed, and cook in water with sugar and a squeeze of lemon.
Storage: Long-lasting. Store on counter to enjoy scent.