september & october 2010
Wild Bananas of Vietnam
Another Expedition of Musa Discoveries
Creation of Plant Taxonomy at its Elementary Level
vol. 42, no. 5 – $7.50
 A New Taste for Quince
 Peachy Videos on You Tube
 Got Dessicated Scionwood?
Improbable but nonetheless true
A New Taste for Quince
Harvesting Pineapple quince, Reedley, Calif.
Harvesting Pineapple quince, Reedley, Calif.
Smyrna quince, Navelencia, Calif.
Story and images by David Karp©
eglected for decades, the quince seems an improbable candidate for revival today, when consumers demand sweet, ready-to-eat fresh fruit. Why
is it, then, that in recent years three books of quince
recipes and lore have appeared, the fruit increasingly
is featured at high-end restaurants, and half a dozen
(turn to page 16)
of these have even been named after it?
Packing Pineapple quince, Woodlake, Calif.
Smyrna quince
Meech’s Prolific quince
Pineapple quince
Cooke’s Jumbo quince (aka Golden)
Quince in bloom, Clermont, NY
Pineapple quince
Sarabian Farms Pineapple quince ready for harvest, Reedley, Calif.
Pineapple quince
Quince Restaurant in lower Pacific Heights, San Francisco, Calif.
Clockwise, from upper left: Pineapple; Golden (aka Cooke’s Jumbo); Meech’s Prolific; Smyrna; Orange
Edgar Valdivia with Apple quince
Valdivia’s yellow quince, a limb mutation
Yellow quince compared to normal
Valdivia’s Apple quince (aka Karp’s Sweet)
(from page 14)
“The quince is the poster child of ‘Slowness,’ ” suggests Ben Watson, an author
and food activist who organized a tasting of
quince varieties for Slow Food’s Ark of Taste
committee. “It’s lovely and fragrant but
pretty much inedible unless transformed
by peeling, coring and cooking. I think it is
poised for a comeback.”
It certainly is a paradoxical fruit, both
homely and voluptuous, like a large, knobbly,
fuzzy pear. When raw it is typically so hard,
sour and astringent that in Turkey, the world’s
largest producer, “to eat the quince” is slang
meaning “to get into serious trouble.” But it
has an intense, alluring aroma—reminiscent
of pineapple, guava, Bartlett pear and vanilla—and when cooked, its flesh softens and
turns a gorgeous translucent pink.
The quince is a pome fruit related to
apples and pears, native to the Transcaucasus area. It is most commonly grown in
western Asia, southeastern Europe and parts
of Latin America for use in preserves, compotes, condiments and stews.
Spanish padres planted a few quince
trees at California missions, but cultivation
took off only with the arrival of American
nurserymen and farmers in the mid-19th
century. The great plant breeder Luther Burbank observed in 1914 that “the soil and climate of California are peculiarly hospitable
to this fruit” because of its long, warm, dry
growing season. At that time about 900 acres
of quince were grown here, only a small fraction of the nation’s total plantings.
Quince was popular because its high
pectin content made it ideal for making jams
and jellies, but its cultivation faded away
with the use of powdered pectin, the decline
in home preserving and the increased prevalence of fire blight, a bacterial disease that
can quickly wipe out an orchard.
Today California is the only U.S. state
that grows commercial quantities of quince,
and there are only about 300 acres, mostly
in the San Joaquin Valley. The harvest runs
from mid-August to early November, and
the fruit, which stores well, is sold through
January; small shipments from Chile come
in from March to May.
Careful Harvesting
The quince’s aroma develops fully only
when it is picked yellow-ripe, but commercial growers usually harvest when the
fruit is greenish-yellow so it will ship and
store better. Workers wearing cotton gloves
pick the fruit gently and put it into small
plastic totes, because even though quinces
seem hard, they bruise easily. Packing is
simple: Workers sort out the culls and discard them, rub off the fuzz from the good
fruit with a soft cloth (to keep mold from
developing in storage) and wrap them in
protective tissues.
The carotenoid molecules that give
Where to Find Quince
Here are a few places to buy quince fruit, trees and products.
Gonzaga Farm (Ronnie and Tess Gonzaga). Pineapple
quince grown in Lindsay, California. Sold at the Alhambra,
Cerritos, Buena Park, Long Beach Southeast, Long Beach
Uptown and Long Beach Downtown farmers markets.
June Taylor Co. (June Taylor). Artisanal organic preserves,
available by mail order: quince butter, quince paste, quince
cheese. 2207 4th Street, Berkeley, California; (510) 5482236; www.junetaylorjams.com.
Mud Creek Ranch (Steve and Robin Smith). Organic
Pineapple and Golden quince grown in Santa Paula, California. Sold at the Hollywood and Santa Monica Wednesday
farmers markets.
One Green World (Jim Gilbert). Aromatnaya, Crimea,
Kaunching, Kuganskaya, Mellow, Orange, Smyrna and
Van Deman quince trees. 28696 S. Cramer Road, Molalla,
Oregon; (503) 651-3005; www.onegreenworld.com.
Oregon Quinces (Tremaine and Gail Arkley). Fresh Pineapple and Russian varieties of quince. 9775 Hultman Road,
september & october 2010
Independence, Oregon; (503) 838-4886.
Raintree Nursery (Sam Benowitz). Aromatnaya, Ekmek,
Karp’s Sweet, Orange, Pineapple, Portugal, Smyrna and Van
Deman quince trees. 391 Butts Road, Morton, Washington;
(360) 496-6400; www.raintreenursery.com.
Trees of Antiquity (Neil Collins). Aromatnaya, Pineapple
and Smyrna quince trees. 20 Wellsona Road, Paso Robles,
California; (805) 467-9909; www.treesofantiquity.com.
Terry Ranch (Rebecca and Mark Terry). Pineapple quince
grown in Dinuba, California. Sold at the Santa Monica
Saturday (Organic) farmers market.
Willowrose Bay (Edith Walden). Mediterranean quince
marmalade (like membrillo); regular quince marmalade;
Ambrosia (quince and applesauce); quince butter; quince
syrup; and fresh quince: Aromatnaya, Cooke’s Jumbo,
Havran, Karp’s Sweet, Kaunching, Kuganskaya, Meech’s
Prolific, Lisle, Smyrna, Tashkent, Van Deman. P.O. Box 1652,
Anacortes, Washington; (360) 299-9999.
quince its yellow color break down into
compounds, notably lactones and rosescented ionones, that impart the fruit’s
pungent floral aroma. Phenolic chemicals in
raw quince flesh coagulate proteins in your
mouth, causing the fruit to taste astringent;
but when it is cooked for a long time, heat
and acidity convert these compounds to anthocyanins, so the pulp loses its astringency
and turns a pleasing pink.
Many quince growers are of Armenian
ancestry. Herbert Kaprielian of Reedley, Calif., the venerable longtime “King of Quince,”
who is now 80, remembers that when he
started growing the fruit in the 1950s “every
Armenian-owned farm had at least one quince
tree.” At first he shipped mainly to Greeks,
Italians and Jews on the East Coast, then
starting in the 1970s, Latino customers became increasingly important. Marketers now
estimate that about three-quarters of the crop
goes to ethnic groups familiar with quince
from their homelands.
The leading variety in California is
Pineapple, a smooth, roundish fruit that’s
early-maturing and relatively tender. In
fact, Luther Burbank, who introduced it in
1899, claimed that it “when thoroughly ripe
rivals the apple as a fruit to be eaten raw.”
I always considered this nonsense, but last
year when I picked some Pineapples in early
November, they were indeed soft and juicy
enough to be fairly palatable.
Ripening in mid-season, the Smyrna,
brought from western Anatolia in 1897, is
large and pear-shaped, with heavy brown
fuzz. It’s the favorite of quince aficionados
for its intense aroma but grown on limited
acreage because of its susceptibility to fire
blight. Latest and largest of all is Golden,
also known as Cooke’s Jumbo, a blockyshaped fruit, possibly a chance genetic mutation of Smyrna, selected by Kaprielian’s
father in the 1960s.
Since the days of Roman naturalist Pliny
the Elder, anecdotal and scientific reports
have described dessert varieties of quince
that are delicious to eat fresh, but whenever
I encountered such fruits they tasted more
like furniture than food. Eventually I came
to view such accounts as apocryphal.
David Karp writes a weekly column on produce and farmers
markets that appears each Friday online in the Los Angeles
Times food section [latimes.com/features/food]. He also writes
longer feature articles for the newspaper’s print edition, such
as this piece, which appeared originally on October 28, 2009.
In May he began work as a part-time citrus researcher for the
University of California at Riverside’s Department of Botany and
Plant Sciences.
fruit gardener
A Backyard Favorite
Then in 1997, I met a retired computer
engineer named Edgar Valdivia at the crfg
annual conference, which was that year renamed the Festival of Fruit. He said he had a
sweet-fleshed quince tree in his yard in Simi
Valley, derived from cuttings imported by
a friend from the Majes Valley of southern
Peru, where it’s too warm for most apples and
pears to grow well but where quinces flourish.
The next day he brought in a round yellow
fruit that indeed had typical quince aroma,
ribbing and light fuzz—but was softer, juicier
and non-astringent, and quite pleasant to eat.
Since then the variety has become increasingly popular among Southern California backyard growers. At least one farmers
market vendor, Alex Weiser, has ordered
trees, but it remains to be seen how the variety will fare commercially.
CRFG variety registrar C. Todd Kennedy sent budwood of this tree to the U.S.
Department of Agriculture’s fruit collection
in Corvallis, Ore. There, much to my surprise, quince curator Joseph Postman called
the variety Karp’s Sweet quince, naming it
after me. As grown in the Northwest, however, it might better be named Karp’s Sour;
the variety needs California’s heat and long
growing season to ripen properly.
In Corvallis, Postman maintains an
orchard of more than 100 quince clones,
many of which he and other USDA scientists collected in recent expeditions to the
fruit’s homeland in Armenia, Georgia and
When I visited, some of the varieties
were fruiting for the first time, and a few
seemed remarkably tender and non-astringent, especially given the area’s cool climate;
others were early-ripening, showing promise that they might be suitable for growing
commercially in the Northwest, where
autumn rains, which can crack and rot
quince, often arrive before standard varieties ripen. With the USDA collection and
several nurseries and farms growing exotic
varieties, the area is already a hub of quince
Fruits, like stocks and clothes, are ruled
by the inscrutable laws of fashion. Quince
may never regain its status as a major
player, but in today’s food world, it’s so
out it’s in.
Quince Bibliography
Brunn, Stanley D. 1963. A cultural plant geography of the
quince, The Professional Geographer, 15(5):16–18.
Burbank, Luther. 1914. Luther Burbank: his methods and
fruit gardener
Golden, aka Cooke’s Jumbo, is very large
and bears late in season, but is also susceptible to
fire blight. The third most common quince in California, it comes
from a sport of Van Deman discovered in a San Joaquin Valley orchard in the
1960s. Stan Shamoon’s orchard in Navelencia, California, southeast of Fresno.
See Simply Quince Recipes on page 18
discoveries and their practical application.
Hedrick, U.P. 1922. Cyclopedia of Hardy Fruits. New York:
Ghazarian, Barbara. 2009. Simply Quince. Monterey, Calif.:
Güngör, M.K., A. Küden, H. Gülen, 1998. Studies on the
Selected Quince Types. ISHS XXV International Horticultural
Congress (Book of Abstracts) p. 458–9.
Joannet, Henri. 2007. Du coing et du cognassier. St. Remy de
Provence, France: Editions Equinoxe.
Loohuizen, Ria. 2003. Het rijk van kwee en vijg. Amsterdam/
Antwerp: Atlas (in Dutch).
Loohuizen, Ria. 2009. Realm of Fig and Quince: An Anthology
of Recipes. Totnes, England: Prospect Books.
McGinnis, Laura. 2007. Quest for quince: expanding the NCGR
collection. Agricultural Research 55(1):20–21.
Meech, W.M. Quince Culture. New York: Orange Judd, 1888.
(available online at http://chla.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/
Peyre, P. Les Sorbiers & Cognassiers. Le Kremlin-Bicentre,
France: Boivent, n.d. (late 1940s?).
Postman, J.D. 2008. The USDA quince and pear genebank
in Oregon, a world source of fire blight resistance. Acta
Horticulturae. 793:357–362.
Postman, J.D. 2009. Cydonia oblonga: the unappreciated
quince. Arnoldia. 67(1):2–9.
Sykes, J.T. 1972. A description of some quince cultivars from
western Turkey. Economic Botany, 26(1):21–31.
Wilson, C. Anne. 1999. The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents,
Its History and Its Role in the World Today, Together With
a Collection of Recipes for Marmalades and Marmalade
Cookery. Philadelphia, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, rev. ed.
september & october 2010
(from page 17)
Simply Quince, by Barbara Ghazarian
Poached Quince
This recipe is the most important in the collection. Often, when using quince as
an ingredient in pies, cakes and side dishes, it’s necessary to poach the fruit first.
Precooking evens out the cooking times and tenderness of quince when pairing
it with other fruits, such as pears, apples, or cranberries. Slices can be served with
a couple spoonfuls of poaching liquid on pancakes, French toast, or waffles for
breakfast; as an ice cream topping; or as a simple, pretty blush fruit compote.
8 cups water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 pounds fresh quince, peeled, cored,
quartered, and cut into ½-inch-thick
wedges (about 7 cups)
Combine the water, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon stick, and quince in a large heavy
bottomed pot and quickly bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Gently simmer
uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1¼ hours, or until the quince is tender. The fruit
will turn golden, then a blush salmon-pink. The fruit is done when it can be pierced
easily with a knife. Discard the cinnamon stick. Cool to room temperature. Poached
quinces may be jarred in their poaching syrup, stored in an airtight container and
chilled (in the refrigerator) for a week, or frozen. Makes about 4 cups poached quince,
plus 3 cups poaching liquid.
Simple Baked Quince
In season, cooks across the traditional quince-growing region of the world—
Armenia, Iran, Turkey, and neighboring countries—value baked quince as the
perfect finish to an evening meal. Variations are limited only by imagination
and available ingredients. Try this simple yet elegant recipe as a beginning.
2 medium or large fresh quinces
2 to 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
4 tablespoons firmly packed light
brown sugar
Ground cinnamon
Ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons (¼ cup) coarsely
chopped walnuts
¼ cup heavy cream, whipped cream,
plain yogurt, mascarpone cheese,
crème fraîche, or kaymak (see Note)
Preheat the oven to 375F. Place the fruit in a roasting pan filled 1 inch deep with
water. The water prevents the fruit from burning where it rests on the pan. Cover
securely with foil. Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour; flip the quince and
rotate the pan at least once during cooking to ensure even baking and prevent burn
spots. Remove from the oven and let stand until the fruit is cool enough to handle.
With a sharp knife, halve each quince; core completely with a knife, melon baller,
or peach pitter. Place each cored half, cut side up, on a square of foil large enough
to enclose the half when folded. Score the softened flesh with a sharp knife. This
will help the flavorings seep into the fruit during the second baking. Fill each half
with ½ to 1 tablespoon of the butter (depending on size), 1 tablespoon of the brown
sugar, and a dash or two of cinnamon and nutmeg. Then fold the sides of the foil
up and around the quince and seal. Return the wrapped quince to the roasting pan
(drained of water), cut side up, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the fruit is
very tender. The baking time will vary depending on the size and quality of the fruit.
Remove the pan from the oven. Carefully open the foil pouch and set each half on a
dessert dish. Top each half with 1 tablespoon of the walnuts and a generous spoonful
of dairy topping. Serve immediately while still warm. Serves 4.
Note: In Turkey, baked quince is served topped with a heavy clotted cream called
kaymak. In the United States, kaymak is imported from Lebanon, Syria, or Turkey
and sold in the dairy section in most Middle Eastern groceries.
september & october 2010
These recipes, all from Simply Quince by Barbara Ghazarian (Mayreni Publishing, August
2009), were published as a sidebar to “There’s a new taste for quince,” which appeared under
David Karp’s byline in The Los Angeles Times, October 28, 2009. To peruse the online story, go
to http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo-quince28-2009oct28,0,5254414.story.
Candied Quince
For those new to cooking with quince, this recipe is an excellent starting
point. Candied quince is very easy to make, is delicious any way you serve it,
and lasts for months when chilled.
1 pound fresh quince, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch-thick wedges (about 3 cups)
3 cups sugar
Gently toss the quince wedges with the sugar in a large mixing bowl until covered.
Transfer to a large heavy-bottomed pot and cook over medium heat until the sugar
melts completely and begins to bubble. Stir often so the fruit does not burn. Reduce
the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1¼ hours or until the fruit
is covered with a rich red caramel-colored, thick, gooey syrup. Serve in little dishes
pooled in heavy cream, yogurt, or use as a topping for vanilla ice cream. When
chilled, Candied Quince will keep for months. Makes 1 pint.
Lamb and Quince Tagine
Tagines are savory Moroccan stews commonly served with couscous. They
combine meat with vegetables, fruit, or both and are boldly spiced. The name
refers to the earthenware vessel in which they are cooked. A pinot noir with
herbaceous qualities complements this stew beautifully.
1 large yellow onion, chopped
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon turmeric
Pinch of cayenne
¼ cup tomato paste
2 pounds boneless lamb, fat trimmed, cut
into 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
One 14½-ounce can peeled, diced
3 cups water
1 pound fresh quince, peels left on, cored,
and cut into bite-sized pieces (about
2 cups)
½ cup sugar
¼ cup red lentils, washed and picked free
of debris
Juice of 1 lemon
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Sauté the onion in the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat
until tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Lower the heat and stir in the cinnamon,
allspice, cloves, turmeric, and cayenne. Add just a pinch of cayenne at this stage
in the recipe: you can always add more later. Stir in the tomato paste and mix
thoroughly; then add the lamb, salt, black pepper, and tomatoes. Raise the heat
to medium-high and allow the mixture to bubble for about 5 minutes, stirring
occasionally. Add the water, bring the stew back to a boil, and then lower the heat,
cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the quince, sugar, lentils, and lemon juice.
Mix well. Simmer for another 30 minutes, or until the meat and quince pieces are
tender and the sauce has thickened. Adjust the sugar and seasonings to taste. Serve
hot over a bed of pilaf, couscous, basmati rice, or mashed potatoes garnished with
fresh parsley. Also delicious served with a wedge of hard cheese such as Manchego
and a chunk of hearty bread. Serves 8.
fruit gardener
Pineapple quince, Reedley, Calif.
Typical knobbly specimen of Cooke’s Jumbo, Visalia, Calif.
Quince Clafouti
Light, rich, and creamy, this pudding-like dessert is a French classic. As long
as you have poached quince in the refrigerator, it assembles quickly and cooks
fail-proof. Sublime when served slightly warm or just at room temperature.
For the Quince
1¾ to 2 pounds fresh quince, poached according to the directions on page 18 (3½ cups
poached quince, drained, patted dry with paper towels, and chilled in an airtight container
for at least 2 hours before using)
For the Pan
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
For the Custard
/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 extra-large eggs, room temperature
6 tablespoons white all-purpose flour
1½ cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons apricot brandy
¼ teaspoon salt
To Finish
Confectioners’ sugar
Prepare the quince as directed. Preheat the oven to 375F. Butter a 9-inch round baking
pan (no substitutions). Sprinkle the bottom and sides of the pan with 1 tablespoon
of the sugar. Set aside. To prepare the custard, beat the eggs and the remaining 1/3
cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until pale
yellow, light, and fluffy. This important step takes 3 minutes. Add the flour, cream,
lemon zest, vanilla, brandy and salt. Mix at low speed until combined. Set aside to
stand for 10 minutes. Slice the chilled quince wedges lengthwise so they are of uniform thickness, if necessary. Arrange the slices in a fan or wheel pattern in a single
layer in the prepared pan. Pour the custard evenly over the fruit. Bake in the middle
of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the custard
is firm. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides from the pan with a
knife, place a large plate over the pan, flip upside down, and gently pat the bottom
to loosen and release whole. Place a serving dish on the exposed fruit layer and flip
again, so the browned custard top is showing. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, slice,
and serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Best served the day of preparation;
the custard tends to firm and crack when held over. Serves 10.
fruit gardener
Pineapple quince harvest, Sarabian Farms, near Reedley, Calif.
Packing Pineapple quince, Sweeney Ranches, Woodlake, Calif.
september & october 2010