Tag Archives: Biblical Fruit

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Quince Dubbed “Poster Child of Slowness”

quince by 4028mdk09

Folks in various Slow Food circles are suddenly rallying around the quince, which I featured on my site just a week ago.

Possibly with us since Biblical times, the quince was traded at middle eastern crossroads before making its way around the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic to Thomas Jefferson’s garden, only to become relatively neglected in more recent eras.

That seems to have changed, as the somewhat homely fruit has recently become the improbable star of cookbooks, restaurants, and home cooks.

Ben Watson, an author and food activist with Slow Food USA, proclaimed, “The quince is the poster child of Slowness. It’s lovely and fragrant but pretty much inedible unless transformed by peeling, coring and cooking. I think it is poised for a comeback.”

Watson has been involved with Slow Food’s Ark of Taste project, which is an extremely exciting effort to catalog and promote all kinds of delicious foods that are in danger of extinction as we move toward mass production of fewer varieties of foods. I urge you to visit the Ark of Taste web site to see tantalizing photos and learn about wonderful heirloom fruits and other foods, and where to find them.

More on quince’s comeback, history and harvesting can be found in this delightful Los Angeles Times piece.

Also just in, courtesy of Food News Journal: “French foodie Stevie Parle turns to Provence for a perfect quince crumble.” This from the Guardian. (His crumble actually looks and sounds to me like a crisp, which coincidentally is my favorite dessert. I’ll have to try to make some!)

Quinces Ag Research

They Dined on Quince ..

quince by 4028mdk09

In Edward Lear’s playful love poem, The Owl and the Pussycat, the title characters “went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat”. On their wedding night, “they dined on mince and slices of quince” and, yes, ate them with a runcible spoon.

While I don’t know what Lear’s mince was (if anything), the ancient-appearing, squat-pear-shaped, crunchy and little-used quince may be one of the oldest fruits in existence. Early traders traveled from the Tigris Valley to Isfahan, in what is now Iran, for quinces, honey, saffron, apples and salt. Those foods were combined with grapes, pomegranates, cinnamon, rhubarb and figs back at the trading crossroads of Bagdad.

Of these foods, quinces are thought to be one of the most ancient — it’s possible that Eve was tempted not by an apple but by a quince. (And wouldn’t this knowledge have raised the quince’s profile?)

Quince by David W

The evocative fruit made its way to the Mediterranean and to New World, appearing in the garden at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. I’ve been only somewhat aware of quince, having had quince sorbet and quince jam (which was wonderful, something like a sweet-tart apple-pear) , but not much else. I’d noticed the beautiful, sensuous fruit stitched into Medieval tapestries in museums.

So when the folks at Food News Journal found themselves with a bounty of fresh quinces on their hands, and asked their readers for a quince recipe, I had limited experience with the fruit, but was as curious as they about what to do with it. (I was also charmed by the idea of calling for recipes rather than wasting fruit.)

Quinces Ag Research

I found quince compotes and, of course, jam, which I’d like to try, but my curiosity was especially piqued by this Quince Tarte Tatin from Epicurious, precisely because I like apple desserts so much and substituting the somewhat exotic quinces for the recipe’s traditional apples seemed interesting.

My recipe was chosen, and Shelly Peppel of Food News Journal reports that the resulting tart smelled delicious. “It had a bubbling brown crust, and the caramel was bubbling around the edges in a buttery broth that sent me straight to heaven,” she wrote.

So now I’ll have to try it. Who knows? If enough of us start cooking with quinces, we can re-popularize this historical, romantic fruit.

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Photos: Wikimedia 4028mdk09/Public Domain, David W./Public Domain, Ag Research/Public Domain, Brian Leatart/Bon App├ętit

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