The quince (Cydonia oblonga), which originates from Asia, has been widespread in southern European gardens since ancient times. North of the Alps, it still has the status of an exotic and is appreciated by lovers. Granted: Unlike apples and pears, quinces cannot be eaten raw. Nevertheless, the quince tree has a lot to offer both culinary and optical. The leaves are greyish felt, the enchanting, upright flowers are powdered pure white to pink, and the fruits shine bright yellow.
Appearance and growth
The white to light pink flowers of the quince are clearly larger than those of the apples and pears and leave no doubt about the family affiliation of the rose plant (Rosaceae). They appear comparatively late, open shortly before the rose blossom and are then only visible for about six weeks. Quince fruits are bright yellow in colour and usually ripe for harvest between the beginning and middle of October. The oval, leathery, lush green leaves are covered with a thin felt-like coating, as are the fruits later on, which protects them from drying out in hot summers. The grey felt foliage and the large yellow fruits give the quince tree a Mediterranean appearance, which is why it can be excellently integrated into a Mediterranean garden.
The fruit tree grows relatively slowly and over the years becomes a small, broad-crowned tree with a height and width of about five to six metres. Adult specimens are extremely abundant – harvests of 50 kilograms and more are not uncommon here.
Location and soil
Quinces love warmth and are more sensitive to frost than apples and pears. So plant your quince tree in a sunny, somewhat sheltered location. The tree should not be unprotected from the cold, dry easterly winds in winter. Late frosts, on the other hand, are not a big problem because the flowers do not open until the last night frosts are over. Quinces make hardly any demands on the soil, only lime is not tolerated. They grow on all acidic to neutral, sandy to medium-heavy, permeable soils. Quinces do not tolerate waterlogging moisture, but temporary dryness does not bother them much.
Planting and care
In order to prevent frost damage, which can occur in severe winters especially on young trees, you should only plant quinces in spring. The fruit trees are extremely easy to care for. In dry summers, quinces only need one or two drops of water so that the growth of the fruit is not interrupted and the flesh remains as juicy as possible. Every two years in spring a compost application is sufficient as fertiliser.
In contrast to apples and pears, quince trees manage with little pruning. Cutting measures are limited to occasional thinning of the crown of the tree. Make sure that young plants form an even, airy crown and, if necessary, lighten it every two to three years. The branching is promoted by shortening the shoots. In the case of older trees, you should also rejuvenate the worn, strongly branched fruit wood. Due to the sensitivity to frost, cutting measures before the end of February are not recommended.
Almost all quinces are self-fertile and produce up to 50 kilograms of fruit yield per tree as single specimens. If you plant two quince trees next to each other, the yield can be increased disproportionately, because then considerably more flowers are fertilized.
Harvesting and recycling
The ripeness stage of a quince is well to be recognized by the coloration and the down layer: When the skin turns golden yellow and loses its fluff, it’s time to harvest. Depending on the variety, it is usually early to mid-October. As long as the fruits do not get brown spots, you should leave them hanging, because the last autumn sunrays give the quinces the right aroma. If the first night frost threatens, you should harvest your quinces immediately, because minus degrees have an unfavorable effect on the taste. In this case, however, you can let the fruit ripen on the windowsill for a few weeks without any problems.
Quinces are hardly edible in their raw state because of their hard, sour flesh. When processed into juice or jelly, however, they develop an incomparable aroma reminiscent of a mixture of rose fragrance, apples and lemons. A late harvest time is optimal for juice production. If you want to produce jelly, however, you should harvest the quinces early because their pectin content is at its highest when they begin to ripen. Before further processing you must wipe off the remains of the down layer with an old dish towel, because they can have a negative effect on the taste.
Quince recipes and information about the healthy ingredients of quince can be found here.
Quinces in the our store-Shop
Apple quince or pear quince: Recommended varieties
There are two groups of quinces, the apple quince and the pear quince. The names are derived from the shape of the fruit: Apple quinces bear round fruits, pear quinces show an elongated shape like pears on the fruit stalk. The two quince types also differ in taste. The varieties of apple quince are considered somewhat more aromatic, but have a rather hard, rather dry flesh. Pear quinces are softer and easier to process, but their taste is somewhat more dull. Almost all modern quince varieties are well over one hundred years old and have been bred by Auslese. One of the best apple quinces is the high-yielding, very aromatic variety ‘Konstantinopeler’. It is also a very good pollen dispenser. Of the pear quinces, the ‘Bereczki’ variety from Hungary is particularly recommended.
A special feature is ‘Cido’, the Nordic lemon (Chaenomeles japonica). It is an extremely aromatic ornamental quince. The fruits ripen on slightly overhanging shoots. The wood does not grow higher or wider than 1.5 metres and is therefore ideal for small gardens and as a tub plant. The flowers are orange red, the fruits lemon to orange yellow and somewhat smaller than apple quinces. They mature from the beginning of September to mid-October. Cido’s are not suitable for immediate consumption and, like quinces, are processed into juice, jelly, compote and liqueur.
Like most fruit trees, a quince tree is also propagated by grafting – only then is it true to the variety. There are two common methods: The oculation, the insertion of an eye into the bark of ingrown grafting rootstocks in the open, as well as the copulation, the grafting of shoots of the noble variety onto rootless rootstocks. If you want a large crowned tree, you can also use seedlings of the rowanberry (Sorbus aucuparia). In former times, the hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) was also used as a grafting base because it grows relatively weakly. However, it turned out that the quinces refined on hawthorn were very susceptible to fire blight. It is an incurable bacterial infection which causes great damage in fruit-growing. The root-like reproduction of quinces by cuttings is also possible in principle, but only a very small percentage of unleaved cuttings grow. Cut the cut wood in late autumn after the leaves have fallen and place the shoots in a shady place in the garden in humus-rich, evenly moist soil.
Diseases and pests
Quinces are quite resistant to most diseases and pests. From time to time they are attacked by aphids and frostbite, but the damage is usually limited. Diseases are occasionally accompanied by drought at the top. If individual shoots begin to wilt, you should immediately remove them generously with scissors into the healthy wood. Another serious disease is fire blight, which can be seen on blackish brown shoot tips with dried leaves. There are currently no approved plant protection products against bacterial infection. The consequences of an infestation are devastating. For affected trees there is hardly any rescue, they must be reported to the nearest plant protection office because of the high risk of infection and removed quickly. The plants should be incinerated or disposed of with the household waste. Do not put it on the compost or in the organic waste bin!
In an interview with our store editor Dieke van Dieken, plant doctor René Wadas reveals his tips against aphids.Credits: Production: Folkert Siemens; Camera and Editing: Fabian Primsch