Not all varieties of quinces (Cydonia oblonga) can be eaten raw. Quinces growing in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria are hard and taste bitter because of the tannins they contain. For this reason, varieties from more southern countries (e.g., Turkey) are more commonly eaten raw.
Quinces from northern Central Europe are very well suited for processing. Although there is a considerable amount of work involved in preparing this interesting fruit, it is worth it.
Quince skin is covered in a soft fuzz that contains bitter substances. To prevent these substances from being in the end product, it is necessary to wipe the fuzz off with a dry cloth and wash the fruit. If a brush (e.g., made of brass) is used to rub off the fuzz, the quinces must be processed immediately afterwards as the outer skin has already been damaged. The base of the flower and the stalk must also be removed. Quinces should not necessarily be peeled for processing as some of its unmistakable flavor would be lost in this process.1,2
What do quinces taste like? Quince flesh is hard and woody, and has a fruity and sour flavor. The flesh is interspersed with numerous seeds, which are the size of apple seeds. If you want to use the seeds as well, you have to make sure that they remain whole.
How can you eat quinces? Quinces are best chopped into cubes and placed in a pan. By heating quinces, their juice becomes sweeter. Quinces first acquire their delicious aroma when cooked, boiled, or baked. A certain amount of cooking time is required to soften the chopped fruit and to ensure that they lose their bitter substances and tanning agents. Depending on the recipe, this may take up to three-quarters of an hour.
Cooked quince puree is then used as the basis for a wide variety of recipes. Its high pectin content makes it particularly suitable for the production of jams, jellies, and compotes. Fruity, slightly sweet chutney goes perfectly with hearty dishes. A little honey and lemon juice give quinces a deliciously fresh taste, and they can be used to make desserts such as cakes, tarts, and parfaits.
The juice from raw quinces contains many suspended solids and tastes drier than juice extracted from cooked quince pulp. It is worth boiling the fruit or using a steam juicer.2
Raw quinces can also be dried. To do this, cut a ripe, soft quince into slices. Then dry the slices 8 to 24 hours at about 40 to 50 °C. These slices are a healthy raw food snack or can be used as an edible cake decoration.
Chutney is an Indian specialty, or more precisely it is a flavorful, hot-and-spicy or sweet-and-sour sauce. When stored in a cool place, it keeps for a few days. Coconut pulp (South India), vegetables, or fruit puree are the base ingredient of chutneys. They are often flavored with ingredients including tamarind, chili, mint, and cilantro leaves. Chutney can consist of fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, mango, and eggplant, with the taste being intensified by aromatic ingredients such as onions, garlic, honey, ginger, vinegar, and lemon juice. If you store cooked chutney in sterilized glasses, you can give it a long shelf life.
Ingredients (you can easily use these proportions to make larger quantities): 500 g quinces, 150 g pears, 100 g shallots, 1 tablespoon grated ginger, 1 red chili pepper, 100 mL apple juice, 100 mL apple vinegar, 1 star anise (ground with a coffee grinder), 1 teaspoon salt, and cinnamon and honey to taste. Preparation: Prepare quinces as described in the text above and cut into small pieces. Also cut pears into small pieces. Finely chop the shallots and the chili peppers.
Boil down the mixture on low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and immediately pour into screw-top glass jars and let stand at least overnight. You can find numerous other quince chutney recipes or jam recipes online (e.g., at eat-smarter).
Infuse boiling water with one or two teaspoons of quince seeds and leave to stand for ten minutes.
Quinces can be found at wholesalers and fruit dealers when the season for other fruits comes to an end. In the US, UK, Australia, and Central Europe, quinces are not cultivated on a large scale, which is why fresh quinces usually cannot be bought at the supermarket. You are more likely to find them at local fruit shops, where owners work directly with the farmers. More rarely, quinces can be bought directly from farmers or at a farmers market — or via a fruit and vegetable subscription box. Quince jelly, on the other hand, is available at many major supermarkets such as Walmart, Whole Foods Markets, Kroger, and Safeway (United States); Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, and Holland & Barret (Great Britain); Metro, Extra Foods, and Goodness Me (Canada); Coles, Woolworths, and Harris Farm (Australia). Try organic supermarkets, health food stores, and organic shops for organic quince products.
Ripened quinces taste much more flavorful than quinces that have not spent as much time ripening. Quinces harvested too early do not develop their aroma properly and do not take on their typical taste. A correctly harvested quince will have an intense aroma.
When are quinces ripe? Ripe quinces are a bright lemon-yellow color. A distinction is made between apple quinces (Cydonia oblonga var. maliformis) and pear quinces (Cydonia oblonga var. oblonga), which depends on the shape of the fruit. When is quince season? European-grown quinces are in season from October to November.
How big are quinces and how much do quinces weigh? Quinces have a diameter of 8–15 cm and weigh between 300 and 800 g. When quinces are grown in regions closer to the equator, they can weigh up to 2 kg.4
To test how ripe a quince is, you can’t press the fruit lightly because quinces are still very hard when ripe. The advantages of this hardness and soft fuzz are that quinces sold in supermarkets are usually organic. The fruit is too hard for worms, insects, and birds to get at it. This means that protective measures such as fertilizer are not necessary. When buying quinces, the stalk should still be on the fruit; otherwise, the quince is probably damaged at the base of the stalk. If harvested too late, the quince’s flesh will get brown spots. The starch degrades and the fruit no longer tastes particularly good.
In delicatessens, you may also be able to buy quince brandy or quince liqueur. In organic and health food shops, you may be able to find quince paste, which mostly comes from Spain.6
In Armenia and Iran, quince trees grow in large quantities in the wild. Wild quinces are only about 3 to 5 cm long. Quince bushes growing wild in the Balkans are believed to have descended from cultivated varieties (that became feral).7
You can also buy green quinces to store as they as they will ripen slowly during storage. It is best to store quinces in a dark, airy, cool, and dry place. Ideally, quinces should be stored at a temperature between 0 and 2 °C. Under these conditions, it is possible to store quinces for about 2 to 3 months. However, you should check them regularly to prevent them from unexpectedly rotting. It is also important that the quinces do not touch each other while being stored and that no pressure points are created. As quinces release intensive aroma substances, these substances are easily transferred.
Ripe quinces can be stored in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator for about 14 days before being cooked or eaten.
When they have been well dried, you can freeze quinces to prolong their shelf life. Single frozen portions can be stored for an entire year. Blanched quinces can also be frozen for about the same length of time. Dried quince slices will keep for several weeks if sealed in an airtight container. Quince jam can be preserved for a year or longer. Cooked quince juice can be stored for several months. Otherwise, fresh quince juice should be kept in the refrigerator and consumed within a few days.
There are only 57 calories per 100 g quinces. What vitamins can be found in quinces? A quince’s vitamin C content is 15 mg/100 g fruit, similar to arugula and radishes. In comparison, strawberries and lemons contain significantly more vitamin C, with 58 mg/100 g and 53 mg/100 g respectively.
In terms of minerals, quinces provide 197 mg/100 g of potassium, which is similar to peaches. The iron content of quinces is almost as high as raw beets, with 0.7 mg/100 g. However, in comparison, kidney beans contain 8.2 mg/100 g iron. Magnesium is only present in small amounts (8 mg/100 g); in contrast, bananas contain 27 mg/100 g magnesium and baby spinach contains 79 mg/100 g. We consume enough copper in our diets and do not need more from quinces.
Quinces contain tannins, tannic acids, pectin, and mucilage. Quinces also contain the valuable dye quercetin, which acts as an antioxidant. Detailed information can be found in the ingredient tables below the text.8
The pectin contained in quinces, combined with the mucilage, accelerates wound healing. Quince mucilage is therefore useful as a poultice to work against burns, sunburn, skin inflammations, and hemorrhoids.9
Moreover, pectin has a strong gelling capacity. This enables the binding of toxins and harmful substances in the intestines. Quince compote thus helps with digestion problems and relieves stomach and mucous membrane inflammations. The Greek doctor Hippocrates recommended quinces to help relieve diarrhea and fever.5
The antioxidants quercetin and pectin destroy free radicals that cause long-term damage to the body. Experts believe that regularly consuming locally grown quinces is an effective preventive measure against these radicals. The active ingredients in quinces are said to combat allergies, diabetes, hepatitis, and respiratory and urinary tract infections.9,11
Although quercetin is toxic in high doses, it is said to have cancer-preventing qualities when combined with coumarin. It is especially useful for combatting colon cancer since quercetin is thought to be able to inhibit the formation of bowel polyps. Quercetin has high antioxidant effects, meaning that it can presumably also lower cholesterol.12,10
Quince mucus not only soothes an irritated throat, but also has general anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral effects.
Scientists from the University of Sargodha in Pakistan found that eating quinces in their natural, fresh form has positive effects. Quinces can be integrated into the diet to protect against diseases such as allergies, diabetes, hepatitis, respiratory and urinary tract infections, influenza, gastrointestinal diseases, wounds, ulcers, and even cancer.3,13
Quinces could almost be called a local-grown superfood as scientists recommend its consumption to prevent the diseases listed above.
Quince seeds contain the glycoside amygdalin. If the seeds are crushed or chewed, prussic acid is released, which is toxic. For this reason, the quince seeds must remain whole and intact when eaten.
Traditional medicine uses the flesh, skin, and leaves of quinces. Given the mucila they contain, quince seeds (Sem. Cydoniorum) are the most important part of the quince in traditional medicine. Soaking the seeds in warm water results in a viscous solution that is effective against a cough, sore throat, and bad breath.
If you have insomnia and restlessness, you can counteract this with a tea made from quince seeds. Digestive disorders can also be alleviated with a tea made from the seeds. Tea made from quince skin is said to have cleansing, purifying, and antioxidant effects.21
Externally, the mucilage can be applied as a base ingredient for nonirritating, fat-free ointments.11,1
When there is a shortage of coca, inhabitants of the oasis in the Atacama Desert (Chile) chew quince leaves imported from Europe. Coca is considered the “aspirin of the Andes.” Indigenous people used it against all kinds of pain, neuralgia, rheumatism, colds, and weakness. Furthermore, Native Americans say that coca, if used correctly and respectfully, absorbs grief and pain. Perhaps this is the reason that quinces are assumed to also be effective against depression.14
Quince jelly is a remedy for diarrhea. It is the first solid food that can be consumed after severe diarrhea.10
This also answers the question: “Are quinces healthy?”
The quince originally comes from the Caucasus. The first evidence of cultivated quinces in the Caucasus dates back 4,000 years. In Greece, quinces were cultivated from 600 BCE. In Central Europe, they have been cultivated since the ninth century. They thrive easily in areas with a subtropical winter and summer rainfall. They are considered undemanding in terms of climate, but they need a lot of sun.15,7
There is only one species of quinces worldwide, but around 200 varieties of this species are known. Commercial cultivation of quinces is only worthwhile in places where the infrastructure for processing the fruit exists.7
The quince tree has an interesting shape that resembles an olive tree. It can reach a height of 4 to 8 m. There are also quince shrubs. The leaves of the quince tree are ovoid to broadly elliptical in shape and shiny green. The young leaves and branches are slightly hairy (indument).1The quince opens its beautiful flowers from May onwards. These are up to 5 cm large and form red-tinted white stars with 5 petals. As the quince is self-fertile, there is no need for a second plant in the vicinity for pollination. If the plant produces too much fruit, it is best to remove excess fruit in time to achieve healthy and well-formed fruit.7 A tree bears its first quinces 4–8 years after planting at the earliest. The full fruit yield is achieved after about 10 years.17
Depending on the type of quince, quinces form two distinct shapes: apple-shaped and pear-shaped quinces. Quinces shaped like apples are usually harder than the ones shaped like pears, and for this reason are more flavorful. Pear-shaped quinces are somewhat smaller and milder. They are quite sensitive to frost and thrive best in a climate where wine can also be grown. Apple-shaped quinces, on the other hand, are considered more robust and also suitable for somewhat rougher sites.2,4 As early as September, the first ripe quinces of the season stand out amongst their foliage with their lemony-yellow color. When can quinces be harvested? The peak harvest season is in October and November, when the fruits turn from green to yellow. Despite their hardness, quinces have a sensitive skin, and you should therefore remove them from the branch by twisting them by hand.
The quince tree can also be grown on a trellis. Although quinces have been cultivated for a long time, little has changed in how they are cultivated, and their wild fruit character has been largely preserved. Soil conditions and location are important for the quality of the quince. The quince tree needs good, deep soil and a warm climate. It cannot tolerate too much moisture.6
Quinces (Cydonia oblonga) bear visual resemblance to trifoliate oranges (Poncirus trifoliata) The trifoliate orange, also known as the bitter orange, is a citrus fruit from the Himalayas (central China). Like quinces, it has a characteristic soft fuzz covering its skin. When fully ripe, its skin changes color from green to light to dark yellow, similar to the quince. However, the fruit is inedible.18
The Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica) is also called Maule’s quince and originally comes from Latvia. This ornamental quince grows as a shrub with thorns. It was initially grown to replace lemons. However, the fruit cannot be eaten raw. When cooked, it can be juiced. The Japanese ornamental quince looks similar to the quince fruit, but has no fuzzy coating on its skin.19
The quince tree (Cydonia oblonga) is a pome fruit in the rose family (Rosaceae).20
The Romans discovered the quince around the year 200 BCE. They called the fruit “woolly apple” because of its furry skin. The Romans supposedly brought the quince to Central Europe, where it then spread to the far north. Today, the quince is mainly cultivated in the Mediterranean region. However, the plant also has a firm place in Central European countries and in homes throughout the world.11
The quince’s name comes from Greek. In Kydonia on the island of Crete, which is today known as Chania, farmers probably cultivated the fruit for the first time in the Western world. In Greek mythology, Paris handed Aphrodite a Kydonian apple. The quince is a symbol of happiness, love, fertility, wisdom, beauty, permanence, and imperishability. The ancient Greeks boiled quinces with honey. This created “Melimelon” (honey apple), which served as a source of strength for the sick and as food for travelers. Accordingly, the Portuguese later called the quince “marmelo,” which is still reflected in the word “marmalade.”11
Quince seed mucilage is obtained mechanically and is mainly used in medical and cosmetic products. Quince gum is almost as expensive as tragacanth, which is a gum obtained from the sap of several plants species of the genus tragacanth within the Papilionoideae family. Constantly increasing demand for quinces have put price pressure on the food industry. In response, the food industry switched to cheaper products such as algae and bacterial slime, starch derivatives, and cellulose ethers.7
Quince is also known as cognassier and coing.