A View from Sierra County

Small town life and politics, lots of knitting, and travels with and without my five burros

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Location: In the Sierra Nevadas, United States

I blog about rural living and social issues, and the creativity that comes from knitting, as well as post random pictures of the Sierras and my burros. "In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society" - Simone de Beauvoir


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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Q is for Quince

I have been fascinated by the quince ever since I was a child, when my father would routinely make quince jelly. A member of the Rose family, its botanical name is Pyrus cydonia, and it is one of the first flowering trees to bloom in early spring. When we purchased our property and drew up a permaculture plan for the small acreage, this was one of the first trees I wanted to include, planning to make jelly myself someday.

I also loved to read The Owl and The Pussycat to my children when they were little, with such terrific lines as "and they dined on mince and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon" (according to Wikipedia, author Edward Lear made up the runcible spoon for its nonsensical sound - darn, all these years I had been waiting to find one at an antique store somewhere).

Perennials, especially shrubs and trees, take longer than usual to establish here at Slate Range Camp, mainly because our soil is a heavy red clay low in nutrients. My tree is bearing fruit for the first time this year, although only a handful:


The quince is fuzzy on the tree, before ripe and harvested. My variety is a pineapple quince; there is also a variety that changes from yellow to red when cooked!

The quince has been under cultivation from very early times, and an interesting botanical history appears here.

Quince was believed to be very healthful, and legend has it that Mary, Queen of Scots, carried quince marmalade with her to ease seasickness when she traveled from Calais to Scotland, back in 1561. In a poetic aside, if you get the chance, read Bittersweet Within My Heart, a collection of the love poems of Mary's, who was less than a week old when she inherited the crown of Scotland, later was crowned queen of France, having married Dauphin Francis at age fifteen, but spent the last 20 years of her life locked in the Tower of London, Elizabeth I's prisoner... so much for family politics (they were distantly related).

You won't find quinces in the stores, but may be lucky enough to find a long-abandoned tree in your neighborhood, where you can gather the fruit and try the recipe listed on the above link for Quince Marmalade.

11 Comments:

Blogger amanda said...

Very interesting! I'll have to look around and see if I notice quince down here.

5:20 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I have a friend in Canada with a Quince tree and we were just talking about it on Tuesday!

5:41 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

My Grandmother used to make Quince jelly...boy do I miss her--and the jelly!

5:47 AM  
Anonymous Kristi aka Fiber Fool said...

You've got me curious! I've never had quince, not even the jelly before (though I recall seeing it on the shelves of our tea shop when they were open to the public)...

7:02 AM  
Anonymous sheepshepherdess said...

Great post on the Quince. I have two trees. I did plant them myself, But before that we have always managed to scrounge Quince for Jelly. We call them the jelly trees. We have made a awesome chunky jelly for pancakes with cinnamon sticks and some cloves simmered in during the cooking process, and we have made spiced quince from Deborah Madisons book Local Flavors. Good book by the way a lot of food from our local area.

8:17 AM  
Blogger margene said...

I've never seen a Quince but have always loved the name. Maybe it's because Shakespeare evokes it from time to time. My father grew up on Quince St. in the Maralade district of SLC, too.

8:26 AM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Jelly trees - that's cute. Reminds of my son looking through the cucumber vines for "pickles."

11:46 AM  
Blogger Carrie K said...

I don't think I've ever actually eaten a quince.

I guess Mary & Elizabeth are a bit distant. Mary's grandmother was Henry VIII's sister so Eliz would be her grandmother's niece and....oh my head hurts. And I like Tudor history. I've read enough of it.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I've read about quinces but I don't think I've ever seen one. Interesting history!

3:28 PM  
Blogger Stacie said...

in my mind, quince=grandma! what a great Q! I remember eating said quince jelly too, and had come across a few in the food industry, but haven't seen it in a long time. I'll bet my small rural midwest town has a few trees, and a few older ladies, with quince harvest on their minds!

1:08 PM  
Blogger Kathy said...

Birdsong,

Have never known about Quince. The things we learn from our blogfriends. Thanks!

6:44 AM  

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