Quince fruit is unique, with a bright, golden yellow outer skin, beautiful coral pink flesh, an incredibly pleasing fragrance, and a sweet flavor. Those who have come across it may have mistaken it for an apple or a pear– after all, it appears to be a cross between the two. Quince is unique and hard to find, but once you’ve had the pleasure of trying it, there is no doubt it will become one of your favorites either as a compote or paste. It is one of my favorite fall fruits and the aroma brings back childhood memories.
What is Quince Fruit?
Quince fruit is a small, bright-yellow pome fruit belonging to the Cydonia oblonga genus in the Malinae subtribe of the Rosaceae family (also known as the rose family). Native to southwest Asia, it is now grown worldwide, including the New England and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States as well as Europe. The correct quince fruit pronunciation is "kwins", similar to "queens."
When raw, quince fruits are hard with tough flesh and a tart, astringent taste. Their appearance is quite similar to apples and pears, but their taste and how they are used are substantially different.
What is the history of Quince fruit?
Quinces come from the quince tree, one of the world’s oldest known fruit trees. Quince fruit trees were cultivated by the Babylonians and the Greeks and spread throughout Asia Minor, the Caucasus, and the Mediterranean, including Italy. Today, Turkey leads the production of quince fruit, accounting for 22% of the world’s output. China, Iran, and Morocco are other top producers of the fruit.
Historically, quince was not known for cooking as much as it was for its medicinal and healing properties. During the Middle Ages up until the Renaissance, doctors would use this fruit as part of their medical advice, for example, suggesting drinking quince juice as a treatment for intestinal diseases.
In Ancient Greek mythology, many referred to quince as the “golden apple” or the “apple of discord.” It was considered the sacred fruit of Aphrodite, goddess of love and fertility, and believed that the apple presented to her by Paris was, in fact, a quince. This story connected this unique fruit to the concept of love and marriage. Today, in some regions of Thrace in the southeast Balkans, newlyweds will share a quince before bed so that they will wake up with sweet breaths on their first morning together as a married couple.
What does Quince look like?
Quince looks like a cross between a golden apple and a pear, with a light green outer color that turns bright yellow with brown specks when ripe. It also has a tough, firm skin with a white fuzzy covering similar to a peach. The average size is around four ounces.
Like apples and pears, uncooked quince has a core with a creamy white-colored flesh. When cooked, the flesh turns a beautiful, unique coral-pink color.
What does Quince taste like?
When raw, quince is rather bitter, tart, and sour. Once cooked, it becomes soft, citrusy, and sweet, with a robust and tropical-like fragrance. Some describe the quince fruit taste as a cross between an apple and a pear. Others have described it as a combination of citrus, pineapple, and honey. Sometimes, sugar is added to enhance its natural flavors.
I personally feel cooked quince tastes like a tropic fruit with a beautiful scent of vanilla. In fact, you can add vanilla, vanilla sugar, cinnamon or other spices while cooking.
Is Quince a pear or apple?
Although quince belongs to the same family as pears and apples, it is an individual fruit. Unlike pears and apples, which you can enjoy both raw and cooked, quince has a significantly different taste and aroma when raw. When cooked, quince becomes sweeter, and its aroma becomes much more intense.
Can you eat a Quince raw?
A common question for those familiar with this fruit is "How to eat quince fruit raw?" And while it can be eaten raw, due to its hard, tough skin and incredibly tart, sour taste, it is uncommon to do so. In fact, most consider it inedible.
On the other hand, it is much more enjoyable when you cook quince. The texture softens, the aroma becomes more intense and floral, and the taste becomes sweet and pleasant.
Where to buy Quince
Knowing where to find quince fruit is quite challenging in the US. While quince fruit is grown in different regions throughout the world, the whole fruit is not available everywhere. One reason is that it is a seasonal fruit, typically available in the fall months between September and November.
Some specialty grocery stores may have whole quince fruit for sale, but it is more unlikely to find it than it is likely. To find whole quince, it is best to look online where specialty shops will ship them to you. You may also be able to find quince paste in some stores in the specialty food or deli sections. If fresh fruit is not available, look for quince paste.
How to prep Quince
One of the first things to do when preparing quince to cook is to remove the fuzzy coating. You can do this by rubbing it off with a paper towel or, if you prefer, peeling the skin off with a vegetable peeler.
If you peel the quince, cut it into quarters, remove the core and seeds, and cut out any bruises or dark spots. Carefully place the pieces in boiling water and simmer for approximately 45 minutes until soft enough to serve. Or, place the quince in the boiling water as a whole and cook until it is soft.
How to eat Quince
So, what is quince fruit good for?
There are several ways to prepare and eat cooked quince fruit. The most popular ways to use it is to make quince jam, jelly, fruit preserves, or compote, similar to my caramelized apple topping. Membrillo (quince fruit in Spanish) is a popular quince paste often served alongside cheeses and roasted meats. Quince syrup is also a delicious topping for yogurt, ice cream, and oatmeal. I personally love eating the fruit with walnuts, sliced cheese, and wine!
Quince is also great for baking and making sweet treats. You can poach quince just like I do in my poached pears. You can also use it as a 1:1 substitute for apples in sweet dessert recipes such as my spiced apple cake or cinnamon apple babka. It is absolutely divine in any recipe that includes baking with cinnamon! However, keep in mind when making quince recipes that the fruit cooks differently than apples and will require more time.
How to store Quince
Freshly picked quince fruit will last many many months in a cool and dry place, in fact, my Mom used to store them almost all winter. You can also store it in the refrigerator for months or for a year in the freezer. The most important thing to remember when storing it is to keep it in a cool and dry place, separate from other fruits. Otherwise, its powerful aroma will easily seep into the fruits.
If storing multiple quince fruits, keep them in a single layer, ensuring they do not touch each other. If you’ve ever heard the saying, “One bad apple spoils the bunch,” that saying also applies to quince fruit! You also want to check them and turn them regularly.
Store cooked quince fruit in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can also freeze it for up to three months by placing it into a freezer-safe Ziploc bag. Whether stored in the refrigerator or freezer, make sure first to let it cool after cooking.
Quince Fruit FAQ
Quince fruit is considered nutritious, with just 57 calories per 100 grams, according to the USDA FoodData Central. Some of its health benefits include being a good source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It also has a high concentration of vitamin C and is an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium.
The color and smell will indicate when quince is good to eat. When quince is ripe, it turns bright yellow with specks of brown versus the light green color it has when not ripe. You also will be able to notice its strong, fruity fragrance.
While some small brown patches on the inside of the fruit are typical due to oxidation, you should throw out any fruit with large, mushy, dark brown or black spots or fruit that feels spongy when you squeeze it.
Raw quince is not poisonous; however, the seeds contain nitriles and can be toxic when eaten in large quantities.
You can bake quince fruit once you slice it into halves and remove the core. To do so, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, place them on a baking tray (cut side up), and brush them with a mixture of fresh lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar. Then, pour approximately a half cup of water into the baking dish and place it in the center of the oven. Bake for at least an hour until the fruit becomes fork-tender.
How to eat quince fruit raw?
Most quince fruits are too hard, sour, and unpleasant to eat raw. Cooking makes the fruit soft and brings out the flavor.
If wish to eat it raw, you can just eat it as an apple; peel it, cut it into quarters, and remove the seeds.
What Is Quince Fruit (Ultimate Guide)
What is Quince
- Pronounced “kwins,” quince fruit is a small, bright-yellow pome fruit belonging to the Cydonia oblonga genus in the Malinae subtribe of the Rosaceae family. Their appearance is quite similar to apples and pears, but their taste and how they are used are substantially different.
What does Quince taste like
- When raw, quince is very tart and sour. Once cooked, it becomes soft, citrusy, and sweet, with a robust and tropical-like fragrance. Some say it tastes like a cross between an apple and a pear.
How to use Quince
- One of the popular ways to use it is to make quince jam, jelly, fruit preserves, or compote. Quince is also a delicious topping for yogurt, ice cream, and oatmeal, and can be used as an ingredient in baked goods.