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3 December 2010

Quince (Cydonia oblonga)

Quinces have come into season now here in Tunisia and they are available at the local greengrocer.  They are a versatile fruit.  The following extract gives more information about how they are used in different countries around the world.  "Quinces are often used to make jam, jelly and quince pudding, or they may be peeled, then roasted, baked or stewed. The flesh of the fruit turns red after a long cooking time. The very strong perfume means they can be added in small quantities to apple pies and jam to enhance the flavour. Adding a diced quince to apple sauce will enhance the taste of the applesauce with the chunks of relatively firm, tart quince. The term "marmalade", originally meaning a quince jam, derives from "marmelo," the Portuguese word for this fruit.  The fruit, like so many others, can be used to make a type of wine. Because of its often high acidity which is mainly due to its malic acid content, these wines are more often than not sweet dessert wines that are high in alcohol.

 

In Iran and other parts of the Middle East, the dried pits of the fruit are used to treat sore throat and to relieve cough. The pits are soaked in water; the viscous product is then drunk like cough medicine. It is commonly used for children, as it is alcohol free and 100% natural. A variety of quince which is grown in the Middle East, does not require cooking and is often eaten raw.

In Europe, quinces are commonly grown in central and southern areas where the summers are sufficiently hot for the fruit to fully ripen. They are not grown in large amounts; typically one or two quince trees are grown in a mixed orchard with several apples and other fruit trees. Charlemagne directed that quinces be planted in well-stocked orchards. Quinces are mentioned for the first time in an English text in the later 13th century, though cultivation in England is not very successful due to inadequate summer heat to ripen the fruit fully. Instead Chaenomeles bushes are grown - their fruit is regarded as a good substitute for quinces and they are known commonly as quinces. Quince juice, Quittensaft, is a common drink in Germany, which is also where the saying "A quince for you, a quince for me, quinces we shall eat" is believed to have originated. In the Balkans and elsewhere quince brandy is made.  In Croatia, when a baby is born, a quince tree gets planted as a symbol of fertility, love and life.

In Malta, a jam is made from the fruit (ġamm ta' l-isfarġel). According to local tradition, a teaspoon of the jam dissolved in a cup of boiling water relieves intestinal discomfort. In Lebanon, it is called sfarjel and also used to make jam. In Syria, quince is cooked in pomegranate paste (dibs rouman) with shank meat and kibbeh (a middle eastern meat pie with burghul and mince meat) and is called kibbeh safarjalieh. In Iran, quince is called beh (ﺑﻪ) and is used raw or in stews and jam, and the seeds are used as a remedy for pneumonia and lung disease. In parts of Afghanistan, the quince seeds are collected and boiled and then ingested to combat pneumonia. In Pakistan quinces are stewed together with sugar until they turn bright red. The resulting stewed quince, called Muraba is then preserved in jars and eaten like jam.

Quince was also introduced to the New World and also Australia, in temperate states where in some locations it has grown wild, and New Zealand. It has become rare in North America due to its susceptibility to fireblight disease caused by the bacterium Erwinia amylovora. They are still widely grown in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. Almost all of the quinces in North American specialty markets come from Argentina. In Latin America the gel-like, somewhat adhesive substance surrounding the seeds was used to shape and style hair.

 

In Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela the membrillo, as the quince is called in Spanish, is cooked into a reddish jelly-like block or firm reddish paste known as dulce de membrillo. It is then eaten in sandwiches and with cheese, traditionally manchego cheese, or accompanying fresh curds. In Portugal, a similar sweet is called marmelada. It is also produced and consumed in Hungary where it is called "quince cheese". The sweet and floral notes of carne de membrillo (quince meat) contrast nicely with the tanginess of the cheese.  Boiled quince is also popular in desserts such as the murta con membrillo that combines ugni molinae with quince. Similar dish exists in Dalmatia, Croatia.

 

Used as a rootstock for grafted plants, quince has the property of dwarfing the growth of pears, of forcing them to produce more precociously, and relatively more fruit-bearing branches, instead of vegetative growth, and of accelerating the maturity of the fruit.

 

In the Canary Islands and some places in South America a quince is used to play an informal beach toss-and-swim game, usually among young teens. When mixed with salt water a mature quince will turn its sour taste to sweet. The game is played by throwing a quince into the sea. All players race to catch the quince and whoever catches it, takes one bite and tosses the quince again, then the whole process gets repeated until the quince is fully eaten.

 

In the Alsace region of France and the Valais region of Switzerland liqueur de coing is made from quince and used as a digestif.

 

Quince can also be used as a tea additive to mainly green tea, giving it a rather sweetish taste and scent."  The above extract was taken from the following website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quince


Figure 1: A crate of fresh quinces at the local market.
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