Quince is believed to predate the apple. Some believe that all the ancient mentions like the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden were indeed referring to the quince. Greek mythology associates the quince with Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and many believe that the golden apple given to her by Paris was a quince. The Greek word for quince is kythoni, or sometimes kydoni. It's written κυδώνι and pronounced kee-THOH-nee.
The Quince in Ancient Times
Ancient Greeks associated the quince with fertility, and it played an important role in wedding celebrations. It was often offered as a wedding gift. A bite of the fruit was used to sweeten the bride's breath before entering the bridal chamber, and then the fruit was also shared by the bride and groom. Thanks to these associations, the quince has become known as the "fruit of love, marriage, and fertility."
The quince's botanical name, cydonia oblonga, derives from Kydonia on the island of Crete. It was on this island that the ordinary quince of old was transformed into the fruit we know today in the Mediterranean area.
The modern-day quince is shaped like a hybrid of an apple and pear. It has a rich yellow exterior and gives off a strong pleasant fragrance. It's hard, acidic, and astringent before cooking, but it turns red, tastes divine, and takes on a whole different color and flavor when cooked. Aluminum cookware will deliver the deepest red color in cooked quince. Quinces grow on trees and are ripe and ready for eating in late autumn.
Cooking With Quince
Quinces are used to make marmalade, spoon sweets, and jellies. The fruit has a lot of natural pectins, which is a naturally occurring starch. Quinces also make great additions to apple pies, and they're delicious when cooked with meats. There are some well known and well-loved pork dishes in Greece made with quince; it's also good with proteins such as lamb, turkey, and duck. Quinces can be baked, just like apples, for a sweet and simple dessert.
The "Fruit of Love"
Since quinces have been a part of so many ancient cultures, they also appear in all types of literature and poetry. Here is just one example of a mention of quince in literature.
"They dined on mince and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand on the edge of the sand
They danced by the light of the moon."
~ "The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear
Quince is relatively high in carbohydrates. The fruit is a good source of vitamin C, phosphorous, and potassium. It is also known to be a rich source of zinc, copper, iron, and dietary fiber.