One side of the house I grew up in is sheltered by a large quince tree, one of two given to my family so many years ago that I can barely remember a time without them. I fondly remember the friend who gifted us these trees, a renown artist and local historian who could keep you on the edge of your seat while spinning a yarn of some long ago adventure of wartime travels or early life in New York City. When we crossed paths in town he would always say: “draw every day!” But that is another story… back to our quince. In addition to graciously holding our bird feeders, the tree I refer to continues to yield two special gifts after all these years. First, it has spread a leafy canopy across the side of the house which ensures a private alfresco dining room in temperate weather, and second, the amazing harvest of quince.
Quince is a peculiar fruit, looking somewhat like a pear, but bumpy and irregular in shape. Quince is not a fruit to be eaten like an apple – it’s very hard and not very sweet – it requires preparation to eat. But there is something about this fruit that makes all the work worthwhile. The first clue to just how special quince is comes as late fall approaches. Walk up the slate path and suddenly be enveloped by the rich orchard aroma and you will know what I mean. Quince lovers do. Our little
orchard spreads it’s magic through the neighborhood. Strangers walk by and ask if they can select some fruit to jar or bake… “wait until the aroma is just right” we say. And when these fruit are ready the rewards are like no other.
Home Baked Quince
2 pounds quince, peeled, cored and sliced
5 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons water
300° oven. In a rectangular baking dish, overlap the sliced fruit, drizzle with honey, lime juice and water. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil, raise heat to 425° and bake for 10 minutes, until liquid is thickened and fruit is golden.
Quince is coming into it’s own… this year I have read of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is adding quince to their enchanting acres. Just outside of Manhattan in Pocantico Hills, New York, Stone Barns is an oasis for anyone with a love of the garden or interest in sustainable living and I was delighted to learn that they have made a place for this ancient fruit. Quince also popped up just this past week on my local NPR affiliate, WNYC in their Last Chance Foods series, with another great recipe and comments of afficionados far more expert than me.
Fortunately, the quince tree does well in my tri-state area. We’ve even seen some small trees taking hold in the yard. For a lifetime investment, the quince is a worthy candidate. Who would have guessed all those years ago that those little trees would become such a treasure, a gift from a dear friend with a bounty to share for generations.