“They dined on mince, and slices of quince, Which they ate with a runcible spoon;…”
What other reason could there possibly be for planting a quince tree?
Well, there are a few:
Now is time to harvest your quinces, and Julian, proprietor at Ashridge, has just gathered his first crop of Serbian Gold (pictured). We thought it might be interesting to share his gardener’s progression to this first harvest.
Julian planted a Serbian Gold quince bush in November 2020. This is his first crop of fruit (in all c.4kg in weight), having removed all fruitlets in May/June 2021 (the first year) in order to divert all energy to tree growth and establishment rather than fruit production, as is good practice. Quinces are tip bearing fruit trees which means they take a little longer to reach full cropping potential, but you will get fruits within two years with care, and once away, they can be prolific croppers.
No sprays have been used in maintaining it – just a thorough gathering up of all leaf litter in the autumn (to prevent overwintering pests and diseases); and keeping it watered throughout the summer (a large, slowly applied watering can once a fortnight throughout).
This tree is benefitting from a good position and has been planted against a south facing fence on a well-drained bank in good soil. It is free standing, although you can of course train quince trees.
Once picked, quinces need to be ripened in a cool dark place for up to 6 weeks. Julian is putting his in crates, into the garage.
Why Serbian Gold?
Cydonia oblonga Serbian Gold is a highly ornamental and healthy self-fertile variety producing heavy crops of fragrant, apple-shaped fruits. The fruit can be huge - between 0.5 and 1kg and they are incredibly fragrant. Not only do they perfume a house, but on a sunny day with a gentle breeze, their rich, spicy sweet fragrance can fill a garden. Planting near the entrance to a house or garden makes the most of this exotic scent.
The bark is attractive and foliage is large and leathery, with good autumn colour and abundant pink blossom in spring. Being self-fertile they are happy on their own as specimen trees.
Below is a picture of a quince from a mature 14 year old tree. There is a big difference in fruit size from a younger tree to an established tree.
So why Serbian Gold? Whyever not, although you might also consider Meeches Prolific and Vranja which also grow well in the UK climate. Browse our full range of quince trees for sale or see the full variety of fruit trees available online.
Quinces make fantastic jellies and jams, and can be made into membrillo, a quince 'cheese' to accompany conventional cheeses as well as sweet dishes (good with yoghurt) or as a base to a fruit tart. They can be added to pies and stews and are particularly good roasted with dark meats and game (pheasant in particular).
Recipe for membrillo (quince cheese)
- Cut quinces into pieces and put into a large pan, completely covered with cold water. Split a vanilla pod and add, as well as thin parings of a peel from a single lemon.
- Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer until pieces are tender – maybe 30-40 minutes.
- Strain and discard water and vanilla pod (you can keep to make quince jelly, but you will need to reduce it a lot). Weigh the cooked quinces and then put them in food processor (with lemon peel pieces) and puree.
- Put the puree into a pan with an equal weight of granulated sugar, add the juice from the lemon, and heat gently until all the sugar is dissolved and keep heating (stirring continually to avoid it catching) until after a hour or so you have a thick, orangey pink paste.
- Pour the paste into a baking tray lined with baking parchment (you can oil the parchment with a tiny amount of sunflower oil to prevent sticking) and bake on a very low temperature/50˚C for an hour or until dried out and slightly leathery.
- Serve with cheese, meat, yoghurt, toast, add to stews, or wrap to make an exquisite gift. (need cracking picture of mebrillo/quince cheese).
A Romantic History
Native to the Middle East and Asia the quince is known as a symbol of love, marriage and fertility. Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love, was given this 'golden apple' by Paris, and in ancient Greece the fruit was often given as a gift at weddings.
It first appeared in England in the rather grand surroundings of the Tower of London, planted on the orders of Edward I.
If, like the Owl and the Pussycat, you want to go hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, and dance by the light of it, the next full moon is 8th November, the so-called Beaver Moon, and prime quince gathering season. If you don’t already have a quince tree, we highly recommend planting one. They are a source of interest and joy in any garden.
By the way, a runcible spoon, if you don’t already know, is a fork curved like a spoon with three broad prongs, one of which has a sharpened outer edge for cutting. Ideal for eating a quince…