Quince fruit and flower illustrations from Medizinal-Pflanzen by Franz Eugen Köhler1897.
Quince fruit and flower illustrations from Medizinal-Pflanzen by Franz Eugen Köhler1897.
Quince (Cydonia oblonga Mill.)  is a deciduous, multi-stemmed shrub or tree which grows to 8 - 12 ft. (2.44 -3.66 m) and bears pome fruits. Taxonomically, Cydonia is a monotypic genus in the family Rosaceae, which also includes apple and pear (Bassil et al 2011).  Some varieties have twisted, rangy branches and can become attractive specimen trees when old.  Leaves are long and oval in shape, and covered with pubescence (fine hairs), as are the buds and fruit. Quince is similar to pear and bears a many-seeded pome fruit which is bright yellow when mature. It is high in pectin and was commonly grown for use in the production of jellies before the advent of commercial gelatin. The fruit can be highly astringent and typically must be cooked before consumption, although some cultivars can be eaten fresh.

Quince is native to Caucasus, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, and wild plants exist in Dagestan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenia and Iran. It  has a long history of cultivation Central Asia, the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, reaching back into ancient times. (Duarte et al 2014).  In Greek mythology references to ‘golden apples’ were likely quince, as the familiar large, edible apple fruits are from more recent times (Rieger 2014).

Worldwide there are about 106,000 acres of production, with Turkey producing about 25%, of the crop. Minor producers include China, Iran, Morocco and Argentina. The In the US about 180 acres of edible quince are commercially grown in Tulare County in the San Joaquin Valley of California (Postman, 2009). In 2012 approximately 205 tons of quince were produced in California at a value of $440,000 (County Ag Commissioners Report 2012) . Quince is also used in the US and Europe as a dwarfing rootstock for pear (Postman, 2009). For more on this use of quince see, Quince as a Pear Rootstock.

 Flower and Fruit Development

Quince blooms later than other pome fruits, thus usually avoiding frost damage to developing buds. The solitary white flowers, which develop on new shoots in the spring, are perfect with 5 long oval petals, 20+ stamens and five styles. Like other pome fruits, such as pear and apple, quince flowers are epigynous with an inferior ovary and many ovules (Postman 2009).