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Quince, grown for thousands of years yet unknown of all

Quince fruit in a basket with spices

So you’re bored with the usual apple sauce or strawberry jam, these are sooo conventional. Why not innovate and try a new fruitquince?

Grown and harvested from the quince tree which can reach heights of 16 to 20 feet (4 to 6 meters), quince has been cultivated for at least 4 000 years.

  • Note: though related, quince is slightly different from Maule’s quince, the ornamental shrub.

Native to Iran, its cultivation spread across the Mediterranean area during Greek and Roman times. Greeks considered the fruit a gift of the goddess Venus. Each bride had to savor a quince before her first night with her husband.

Origin of quince fruitSome historians associate the fruit to the apples in the garden of the Hesperides. At the time, it was called the “Cydon apple” or “Cydon pear”, named after a region in the North of Crete. Until today, quinces shipped from that area are still the most favored by connoisseurs. In other European countries, quince is grown in small orchards in a variety of latitudes.

Three varieties dominate the market currently: the ‘Champion’, the ‘Vranja Giant’ and the ‘Portuguese quince’.

Eat baked in the oven, or cooked as jam or jelly

Chewy quince sweetWhen raw, the fruit is too astringent to be eaten. Peel it before cooking.

Hint to make it softer: dip the fruits in boiling water for 15 minutes and pull them out to cool. The fruit will then become much easier to peel with a peeling knife.

Add a splash of lemon juice to keep it from turning dark. Jelly, fruit paste, cakes or poultry or lamb tajines are just a few of the many recipes you can prepare from quinces, both sweet and salty.

Highlighted recipe: Oven-baked duck magret with sauteed quince

Good for 4 persons: ingredients

  • Recipe to cook duck magret with quince2 large quinces or 4 small ones,
  • ½ lemon,
  • 2 duck magrets (duck breasts),
  • 1 tablespoon honey,
  • 0.7 oz (20g) butter,
  • salt, pepper, five spices (which is a powdered mix that contains Sichuan pepper, fennel seeds, black pepper, clove and cinnamon, but family recipes vary).

Steps to prepare the recipe:

  • Preheat oven to 430°F (220°C).
  • Peel quinces. Remove core. Slice into thin quarters and add a dash of lemon.
  • In a large frying pan, fry the quince slices in the butter.
  • Add honey, spices and mix.
  • Cover and let it caramelize for about 30 minutes, mixing from time to time.
  • Slice the skin of the magrets into a square grid.
  • Add salt and pepper to both sides and place in a baking dish.
  • Bake in the oven, skin side down, for about 8 minutes.
  • Flip and then bake for another 8 minutes.

Remove from oven, slice magrets into ½ inch (1 cm) slices and serve with the sauteed quince.

Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Basket of quince by madras91 under © CC BY 2.0
Single fruit by Amanda Slater under © CC BY-SA 2.0
Membrillo by Rebecca Siegel under © CC BY 2.0
Duck magret by Rita under Pixabay license
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