In this undated photo, In fall, bright yellow quince fruits call out to be harvested from among the small tree's craggy stems in New York. (Lee Reich via AP)

In this undated photo, In fall, bright yellow quince fruits call out to be harvested from among the small tree's craggy stems in New York. (Lee Reich via AP)

Quince: Grow and taste the ‘forbidden fruit’

In Genesis, the Bible mentions the “forbidden fruit.” Commonly identified as an apple, many people contend it was actually a quince.

The quince’s Mideast origin, as well as its fuzzy, daffodil-yellow skin and a lemony perfume as penetrating as musk make it a strong candidate for the fruit that tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Don’t take a bite! Fresh, a quince is tart, slightly astringent and dry.

Only after it is cooked — spicing up an apple pie or a batch of applesauce, or on its own in a jelly jar — does quince become its most enticing.

Stewed by itself, the firm, white flesh melts to a smooth, rosy-pink delicacy with hints of pineapple, guava and spice.

Some quince varieties — Aromatnaya and Karp’s Sweet — are said to be edible without cooking, but heat is what really unlocks the best this fruit has to offer in taste, texture and color.

Besides good eating, quince offers two special seasons of beauty. One is now, in autumn, when the stems are festooned with bright fruits shaped like muscular Golden Delicious apples.

In spring, quince’s beauty is more subdued, as white, sometimes pink blossoms unfold. These single blossoms rarely get nipped by frost because they appear relatively late in spring at the tips of new shoots. Growth beyond these flowering shoots is from stems that angle off just behind the flowers to give an old quince tree a craggy, picturesque appearance.

(Don’t confuse this quince, Cydonia oblonga, with the more commonly planted flowering quince, Chaenomeles speciosa, whose usually salmon-pink flowers are followed by green, rock-hard fruits. A combination of long cooking and liberal sweetening renders these fruits edible.)

Although edible quince is not widely planted these days, you can still come upon old trees that were planted decades ago in dank corners of old lots, often the only surviving relics of gardens of the past. Don’t judge quince by the knobby, woody fruit on these neglected plants. Plant quince yourself, give it rich, well-drained soil bathed in sunlight, and you will be rewarded with quinces that ripen to succulent perfection.

Pretty much the only regular care a quince plant needs is light pruning in late winter. When the plant is young, train it either as a small tree with one or a few trunks, or as a many-stemmed, spreading bush. After that, shorten some stems each year and remove some others, enough to keep the plant open to light and air, and to stimulate the foot or two of new growth needed to keep the plant fruitful.

Quince is self-fruitful, so only a single plant is needed for fruiting. The plant offers its first fruits a couple of years after being planted. Besides becoming fully colored, fruits indicate their ripeness by readily detaching from the plant when given a slight upward twist. Although relatively hard, the fruits bruise easily, so handle them with care.

No need to eat them quickly. Ripe, they keep well even at room temperature, ripening more as they sit. On the kitchen counter, they fill the room with spicy fragrance. A traditional way to freshen up a closet or drawer is with a quince fruit stuck full of whole cloves.

Quince is an ancient fruit that long ago made its way west from its original home. The Greeks grew it and dedicated it to their Goddess of Love. According to Columella, a Roman writer of the first century A.D., “Quinces not only yield pleasure, but health.”

Cultivation of the fruit spread throughout Europe and the plants crossed the Atlantic with colonists. Here, quinces were stewed into compote, fermented into wine, and cooked down into a “butter” or into a syrup that once flavored soda-fountain drinks.

As cultivation of quince spread, new varieties originated. Among the more popular are Orange, Pineapple, Champion and Smyrna.

If you enjoy tart fruits, you might actually enjoy biting into the raw fruits of any of these varieties. They do look very enticing.

More in Life

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Safety first

“My DIY projects have been drawing less and less blood over the years”

The 10 participants in season 9 of “Alone,” premiering on May 26, 2022, on the History Channel. Terry Burns of Homer is the third from left, back. Another Alaskan in the series, Jacques Tourcotte of Juneau, is the fourth from left, back. (Photo by Brendan George Ko/History Channel)
Homer man goes it ‘Alone’

Burns brings lifetime of wilderness experience to survival series

Thes chocolate chip cookie require no equipment, no pre-planning, and are done from start to finish in one hour. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Forever home chocolate chip cookies

This past week I moved into my first forever home

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: This purge won’t be a movie sequel

What’s forthcoming is a very rare occurrence and, in my case, uncommon as bifocals on a Shih Tzu puppy

Being content with what you don’t know

How’s your negative capability doing?

Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire
Local Tlingit beader Jill Kaasteen Meserve is making waves as her work becomes more widely known, both in Juneau and the Lower 48.
Old styles in new ways: Beader talks art and octopus bags

She’s been selected for both a local collection and a major Indigenous art market

A copy of “The Fragile Earth” rests on a typewriter on Wednesday, May 18, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Seeking transformation in the face of catastrophe

Potent words on climate change resonate across decades

Gochujang dressing spices up tofu, lettuce, veggies and sprouts. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Healthy life starts with healthy food

Gochujang salad dressing turns veggies and tofu into an exciting meal

Minister’s Message: Has spring sprung in your life?

Christ also offers us an eternal springtime of love, hope and life

A headstone for J.E. Hill is photographhed in Anchorage, Alaska. (
Night falls on the Daylight Kid — Part 2

“Bob,” he said, “that crazy fool is shooting at us.”

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Spring Fever

“OK, Boomer” is supposed to be the current put down by the “woke generation”

Eggs Benedict are served with hollandaise on a bed of arugula and prosciutto. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Honoring motherhood, in joy and in sorrow

Many who have suffered this loss believe they must bear it in silence for the sake of propriety