Quince, a fruit that bears resemblance to apples and pears, comes from the flowering quince tree. The fruit, asymmetrically round, looks like a squat pear. It can have lumpy skin or light fuzz all over. Although once used extensively in home cooking, quince is not as commonly used by today's homemakers who lack time in the kitchen. Still, harvesting quince and using in home-cooked meals is an inexpensive and fun way to utilize fruit from the garden. Just follow these steps.
Step 1: Choose Harvest Time Carefully
Although it may be tempting to pick off quince, doing so too early will result in a longer ripening time. When is the best time to harvest quince? Experts say quince harvesting should begin when the fruit changes from dark to light green color, usually in the fall.
Most quinces do not ripen on the tree. Instead, they ripen during cool storage. A fully ripened quince will be yellow all over.
Step 2: Harvest Quince
Quince needs to be harvested with care since it will easily bruise. Use a sharp pair of garden hand pruners to clip off stems bearing quince so that they don’t damage other fruits.
Select firm, large and light green to pale yellow fruit that is free of any blemishes. Do not pick any that have bruises, or are shriveled or soft.
Step 3: Storing Quince to Ripen
To ripen quince, place in a dry, cool location out of direct sunlight for a few days. Turn fruit several times during that period. For quince that are light green in color (not yellow) and need a longer ripening period (staggered for later use in the kitchen), enclose in plastic bags or containers and store in a cool place for a period of 1 to 2 months. Storage is the same as for apples. Remember to keep quince separate from any other stored fruit, since the strong aroma of quince will taint other fruit flavor. Watch for superficial scald and flesh browning on some varieties.
Step 4: Using Ripened Quince
If not using pale yellow quince immediately, the fruit will turn mealy. Quince may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Wrap in paper towels and keep separate from pears and apples as the aroma affects other fruits.
Step 5: Uses for Harvested Quince
Quinces are tart and not good eaten raw. Many cooks like to use them in baking, such as a quince-apple crisp or pie. The quince flesh turns a light pink when baked and has a fragrant, perfume aroma.
Other culinary uses include Iranian (meat stuffed into quince cavities), Moroccan tanginess (stews with meat, quince and dried fruits, spiced with cinnamon and cloves), marmalades and jellies.
Beyond eating, quince may be used in decorations—wreaths, floral arrangements with stems and leaves, and in room-freshening potpourris.