Quince Wince

As we head from winter into spring, the garden suddenly comes alive with colour, bird song and the buzzing of bees. One of the first shrubs to blossom in this garden is the quince.photo of quince blossom

Quinces belong to the family Rosaceae, as do apples and pears. The quince was cultivated by humans before apples and pears and it is thought that many historical and biblical references to apples are mistranslations of quince. photo of flowering quince

This particular quince is known as a flowering quince, a thorny shrub grown for decoration, although it still produces fruit. The fruit contains more vitamin C than lemons. Quinces originated in Asia, but seem able to grow anywhere. The first recorded planting of quince in England was in 1275 when Edward I grew them at the Tower of London.photo of caterpillar in quince

Quinces provide a food source for various species of Lepidoptera. Indeed in this photo you can see a little caterpillar having a snooze, very badly camouflaged against the pink blossom. I have been reliably informed that this is probably the larva of one of the Angle Shade moths.

The fruit of the quince is very bitter and is seldom eaten raw. Although there is an example of it being eaten raw in a classic piece of romantic poetry; I refer of course to “The Owl and the Pussycat” penned by Edward Lear and published in 1871. The full text can be read here, but I present the relevant section below:

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
   Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
   They danced by the light of the moon,

photo of quince fruitsAs it is full of natural pectins, the fruit is often used to make liqueurs, jellies and marmalades. Indeed marmalade comes from the Portuguese word, “marmelo” which means quince. For the culinary talents out there here are some links to recipes you might like to try: Quince Marmelada here, Japanese Quince Jelly and a Chutney here, and a wild Quince Jelly with a link to sloe gin here.

The fruit is associated with Aphrodite and is considered to be a symbol of fertility. Greek brides would eat quince to aid pregnancy.

Personally I just think it is a very pretty shrub to have climbing up the wall and if it helps out our little moth friends then that is a bonus.

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10 thoughts on “Quince Wince

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