Avatar Quince

A long time ago, Ian had a mild obsession with the letter Q, and specifically the way that the letter Q is little used and frequently overlooked. His short-lived website in the early 2000s had an entire page celebrating it.

If you were looking for the fruit equivalent of the letter Q – something obscure, overlooked, probably not very useful – then you need look no further than the quince. It even has a name beginning with a Q.

For reasons known only to themselves, the people who renovated our house about 15 years ago decided that the back garden needed a quince tree. Now, every autumn, we receive a harvest of quinces, which are all ready all at once and so have to be either used or thrown away within a very short period.

A big bowl of quinces

Unfortunately there’s not much you can do with quinces. They were very popular hundreds of years ago, when modern fruits like apples, oranges and bananas had yet to arrive in England. If you were, say, Henry VIII, you would have eaten a lot of quince because there wouldn’t have been much else around. Today you probably wouldn’t bother and they are one of the most useless fruit trees you could possibly plant. (The other fairly useless old-fashioned fruit is a damson, and they planted one of those in our back garden too. This year, for the first time, we got one single damson fruit off it.)

If you’ve never encountered a quince before, here are the essentials:

  • Looks a bit like a big cooking apple, with yellowy green skin
  • Absolutely inedible unless cooked, ideally for quite a long time
  • Flesh is white when raw but turns bright pink when cooked
  • Texture is grainy, like a pear, but even grainier than that
  • Flavour is quite mild, a bit appley, and a bit peary

The list of things you can do with a quince is not very long. You can use it as a substitute anywhere you would cook an apple – so you can use one instead of an apple in a pie or a crumble, but you have to cook it first. You can bake one into a cake if you have one of a very small number of cake recipes that call for one, but you have to cook it first. Or you can boil it down over the course of about a month to make quince jelly, which is quite nice with cheese. Failing that you can leave it in the kitchen while you try to work out what to do with it all, until a time when it goes off, at which point you can put it on the compost heap.

This is the last year that we will be cooking a small amount of quince and throwing the rest on the compost heap, since the tree has now been cut down. Farewell, tree – and thanks for all the quince.

9 comments on “Quince

  • It is a LOT of quince. You’re right, we’ve been digging a huge open cast quince mine in our back garden under cover of darkness and keeping all the delicious quince from prying eyes so that only we have it. Ha. We’re quince rich while all of you are quinceless peasants.

  • When I grow up I hope to be quince rich too.

    Do you ever put it all in the boot of your car then drive around France or wherever you live quietly chuckling to yourself, knowing how everyone else doesn’t have the same volume of quince as you? Do you also wear a hat whilst you’re doing it? Swine.

  • I do drive it around, but never in the boot. I load it onto the roof rack where everyone can see it. That way I can gloat at all the people I pass and bask in the widening quince disparity facing our nation today.

  • What would the moral of the story be? What are we teaching future generations? In my view the lesson they most need to hear is that it’s better to accumulate useless fruit and then brag about it than to be poor.

  • That doesn’t sound like a very relatable lesson for a children’s book. How about we scrap the whole quince thing and instead just make it a story about a duck who loses his scarf.

  • Oh god, not the f*cking quince again? I thought we left this back in September 2023?

    I mean what I meant to say was great idea about the book. Let’s go with that. I’ll start writing the first draft.

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