Skip to main content
Menu

Diversity   |   Eating & drinking   |   Recipes

What is quince and how to cook it

Just when you thought the best of the autumn fruit was over, this knobbly, fragrant relative of the pear is ready to pick. Quinces are a lost seasonal culinary treasure, harvested in October and November when they turn golden.

As the pace of things slows down in autumn, quinces are just right for slow cooked seasonal dishes, both sweet and savoury. Add to apple crumbles or pies, serve with game, casseroles or tagines.

Perfect poached or baked, they cannot be hurried as in their raw state they are very hard and a little bitter. 

The longer they cook the more of a mellow honey scent they release, becoming tender with a deep sienna hue. Honey-baked quinces are beautiful with a simple madeira cake or baked custard, with plenty of sweet syrup from the roasting pan to drizzle over.

Honey-roasted quince
Honey-roasted quince can be served with custard or ice cream.

Alternatively, simply poach in white wine with spices to serve as part of a dessert or alongside some salty cheddar.

Their high levels of pectin make them ideal for jam and chutney making. Membrillo is an easy to make traditional Spanish solid preserve of simmered, sweetened and set quince paste that can be sliced and served with cheese such as manchego. For something different, try quince vodka by infusing a litre of good vodka with 225g caster sugar, 1kg of quince, peeled, cored and chopped. Store for sixth months or longer as the perfect homemade gift. 

Quince poached
Poach in white wine as a delectable dessert.

An ancient solution to a modern problem

Quince trees were originally ancient mountain forest trees so are less prone to disease, have hardy fruit and blossom beautifully with a gorgeous scent. 

Rediscovering foods that have fallen out of favour as farming became more reliant on less varieties could be key to food security in a changing climate, too. According to Friends of the Earth: "Biodiversity is intrinsically linked to human wellbeing. The continued drop of our plants and wildlife would also leave a huge void in what makes us happy and healthy.”

Quince
Eating a diverse range of fruit and veg is good for diets and for soil health.

The National Biodiversity Network estimates there are around 5,000 fruit varieties growing in the UK, many of which are rarer varieties unique to a specific area they come from and no longer commercially grown. To find everything from medlars to mulberries and rare cider apples, they suggest using the Peoples Trust for Endangered species Fruit Finder to locate which native fruits are from where you live, and where to buy them.

If you would like to try growing your own quince, you don’t even need a whole orchard – they are self-fertile and there are dwarf varieties that would be great in smaller spaces.

    Comments

    sharonalmanzora

    1 Year 8 Months

    I have a quince tree at my home in Spain and I use the fruit in jam and marmalade making that way I use a lot less sugar and the jams and marmalades taste amazing

    0 Reply

    Wicked Leeks is out now

    Cover star, Jyoti Fernandes, tells of the small producers standing up for their rights, while elsewhere we explore climate-friendly eating and how to eat seasonal in spring.

    Read more

    Ecological farming can feed UK if diets change

    New report outlines how diets can support an ecological farming system in the UK to cut carbon, restore nature and preserve farming livelihoods.

    Read now
    veg box

    Ethical organic veg. Delivered.

    Set up by Guy Singh-Watson, Riverford now delivers across the country with a full range of fresh produce, meat, dairy and more.

    Shop now
     

    Join the Wicked Leeks community

    Sign up for the newsletter and receive the five latest stories, once a week. Wicked Leeks magazine is published by organic veg box company Riverford.

    Spread the word

    The twin crises of climate change and biodiversity losses will be the defining stories of our future, but it is not too late to change direction. 

    Here at Wicked Leeks, our mission is to help inform and inspire positive change. Our journalism is free to all because of this, but we want to reach as many people as possible who share our desire for a better world. We know our readers are some of the biggest advocates of sustainable living, and you can help us grow this movement by sharing this article widely, with your friends and on social media. Now is the time to act.