Harvesting Quince Fruit – How To Pick Quince Tree Fruit
By: Amy Grant
Quince is a fruit, shaped somewhat like a squashed pear, with an extremely astringent flavor when raw but a lovely aroma when ripe. The relatively small trees (15-20 feet (4.5 to 6 m.)) are hardy in USDA zones 5-9 and need winter’s cold temps to stimulate flowering. Pink and white flowers are produced in the spring followed by fuzzy young fruit. The fuzz wears off as the fruit matures, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s quince picking season. Keep reading to find out when to harvest and how to pick quince fruit.
When to Harvest Quince Fruit
Quince may not be a familiar fruit to you, but at one time it was an extremely popular staple in the home orchard. Picking quince fruit was a normal harvest chore for many families, made less of a chore when considering the fruit’s destination – jellies and jams or added into apple pies, applesauce, and cider.
Quince, as a rule, does not ripen on the tree but, instead, requires cool storage. A fully ripened quince will be entirely yellow and exuding a sweet perfume. So how do you know when it’s quince picking season?
You should begin harvesting quince fruit when it changes from light green-yellow to a golden yellow color in the fall, usually in October or November.
How to Pick Quince
Picking quince should be done with care, as the fruit bruises easily. Use a sharp pair of garden shears to snip the fruit from the tree. Select the largest, yellow fruit that is blemish free when harvesting quince fruit. Don’t pick damaged, bruised, or mushy fruit.
Once you have harvested the quince, ripen them in a cool, dry, dark area in a single layer, turning the fruit each day. If you have picked the fruit when it is greener than golden yellow, you can slowly ripen it in the same manner for 6 weeks before using it. Check it for ripeness on occasion. Don’t store the quince with other fruit. Its strong aroma will taint others.
Once the fruit is ripe, use it immediately. If you leave it for too long, the fruit becomes mealy. Quince can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks wrapped in paper towels and kept separate from other fruit.
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Read more about Quince Trees
How to Tell When Quince Is Ripe
The small quince tree (Cydonia oblonga) grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 though 9, in areas where summers are long enough for the fruits to mature on the tree. The small yellow fruits resemble yellow apples and are most often used in jams, jellies and cooked dishes -- they're rarely eaten raw. Harvesting the fruits at full maturity ensures the best flavor, although the fruit can continue to ripen off the tree.
SERIES 16 | Episode 11
In Jane's grandmother's time the quince tree Cydonia oblonga was among our popular trees. And thankfully they have returned to fashion. Trendy chefs, restaurateurs and really good cooks love using quinces.
It's a deciduous tree and a tough one. It will grow virtually anywhere throughout the country, as long as its in a sunny spot with well drained soil.
The tree grows to about 7 metres high, and is approximately 2 metres wide, but it should be pruned to keep a more compact shape. The fruit is beautiful - in a bad year they can be small - but in a good rainfall year, they are quite large. The fruit starts as a green colour and changes in autumn to a lovely yellow as it ripens. This is the perfect time to harvest. The bloom on the skin is also perfectly natural.
As for pests and diseases, the quince can be prone to fruit fly in susceptible districts. Sometimes the leaves become skeletonised, and this is caused by the pear and cherry slug - which looks like a little leech. Pear and cherry slug can be treated by spraying with Pyrethrum when the slugs start to appear - usually just before Christmas. In Tasmania and Victoria there is only one infestation a year, but in warmer climates, there can be two or three so repeat spraying may be necessary.
Quinces can survive harsh conditions and produce good quantities of fruit. But like any fruiting tree, if you give it an all-purpose fertiliser it will produce even better.
This tree is tough and hardy and even better its fruit makes fantastic quince jelly.
With its rounded shape, light skin and tender, pale flesh, Cydonia oblonga "Pineapple" quince is so-named because its flavor is similar to the pineapple. Widely grown in California, "Pineapple" quince is harvested from August through late winter. Off-season, it is often imported from Chile. Because the fruit is tart and firm, it is most often used in cooking.
A large quince with a pear shape and fuzzy, golden-yellow skin, Cydonia oblonga "Champion" is a late-season quince. Champion quince is valued for its delicate, slightly lemony flavor.
Quince resemble knobbly, yellow apples, and they’re known for their lovely floral scent. They’re a rare fruit in Toronto, so they’re quite a treat! Unripe, they’re green, with a white coating. As they ripen, they’ll turn yellow and lose their coating. They might also develop an orange ‘blush’ on their skin.
How to tell when quince are ripe: They turn yellow and come easily off the tree (or start falling). Up close, they’ll smell sweet and floral. Quince will ripen off the tree, so don’t worry if you’re a little bit early.
When to submit a pick request: We’ll need some advance notice to schedule your pick, so please submit a fruit pick request 3-5 days before your fruit is ready. A good time to do this is when the quince are a very pale green, almost yellow.
Picking tips: When picking, lift the fruit slightly and gently twist. If it’s ripe, the stem will gently snap off. If you have to tug at the fruit, it’s not ripe. If you need to harvest early due to frost, cut the stems with clippers.
Eating tips: Most varieties of quince are too hard and tart to eat raw. Peeling and chopping raw quince can be difficult, so be careful. Cooking turns them into a beautiful pink colour, and develops the flavour into a sweeter, more apple-like taste. In Spain, a jelly-like paste called membrillo is made of quince and traditionally eaten with Manchego cheese. Quince makes great jelly, sauce, and pie. It’s also used in Middle Eastern and North African savoury dishes.
Storage tips: Quince bruise surprisingly easily, so handle gently and do not stack them. Store in a cool, dark place, away from other fruits or wrapped in paper towel to keep the aroma from infiltrating other foods.
Make sure to only prune quince in the late fall or winter when the tree is dormant. Don’t wait until spring or you may lose your crop for the year! This is because quince only produces fruit on the tips of new growth.
Quince need a lot of sunlight, so make sure you clear your branches of the 3Ds: dead, damaged and diseased wood, and follow the CAC rule: remove any crossing, acute, and clustering branches. More details on technique can be found in our Pruning 101 post.
Aim to keep your quince tree shaped in a vase or goblet style. This shape keeps the centre of the tree open, exposing more of the tree to sunlight. If your tree is well established, the main focus of your pruning should be on clearing the centre of the tree and keeping it tidy. This means removing any vertical branches in the centre that ruin the open goblet shape. Older branches that aren’t budding or show little growth can be trimmed back completely.
The best period for planting is during autumn, at the end of October. The autumn rains will ensure the seedlings will grow roots, and until winter the seedlings will be already used to the new weather conditions. The following planting scheme can be adopted: a 4-m distance between the rows and 3-m distance between the plants on each row. The seedlings need to be purchased from nurseries or authorized fruit-growing stations. We recommend planting 2-3 different species for the pollination process to be completed and the production to be constant and high and quantity and quality. If you plan on planting quinces in your own garden, you can plant it alongside apples or pears.
Before planting, the roots need to be cleaned. This process has the purpose of removing the wounded parts of the roots and smoothing the wounds on the roots. The dead roots need to be completely removed, and the living ones need to be shortened by 7-8-cm. This process is important as it will help keep a healthy root system. This process can be performed only if the seedling has been recently taken out of the soil. The next step would be root mulching. Mulching represents placing the roots inside a mixture of yellow soil, fresh organic compost and water. The mulching layer will ensure higher humidity for the root system. The mulching mix must have the consistency of sour cream. If the seedlings have been transported for long distances before the actual mulching process, place them inside a water filled vase for 2 hours. This will rehydrate the roots.
Actual planting process
This process needs to be started by digging the hole. If the soil hasn’t been maintained before planting, the holes must be dug 2-3 months in advance and it must have the following dimensions: 100 x 100 x 80 cm. If the parcel was well taken care of before, the holes must be dug 1-2 days prior to planting, or even during the same day. For this, the holes must have the following dimensions: 50 x 50 x 50 cm. At the base of the holes pour a mixture of fertile soil, that was taken out of the superior part of the holes, and well-decomposed organic compost. Place the seedlings inside the holes in such a way that the root is placed on the fertile layer located on the bottom of the holes. After the roots have been covered by 10-cm of soil, press the soil the from exterior towards the middle. When planting, the roots must be in close contact with the soil. The planting depth must be calculated in such a way that the grafting point is located 3-4 cm above the soil. The seedlings can then be covered using anti-rodent protection materials.
Plant a quince tree for a traditional crop
How to grow and cook quince:
It’s no surprise that the lumpy, pear-like fruit of quince (Cydonia oblonga) are so hard to come by, since most varieties have a very hard flesh with a grainy texture and unpleasant acidity that makes eating them raw unwise. The blossom is one of the prettiest of all fruit trees, with large, pale-pink blooms, and the fruit have a fabulous fragrance – a few in a fruit bowl will perfume a room.
The quince’s spring blossom is among the prettiest. Photo: Shutterstock
Quince need time for their flavour and texture to be transformed by cooking. Poach, stew or bake them (they will take longer to soften than other fruits), and you will discover why this fruit has been held in such high regard for centuries.
Quince originated in the mountains of Persia and were spread by the ancient trade routes into Asia and Europe. It’s like they were introduced into Britain by the Romans, but the first known record is in 1275 when King Edward I had several planted in the grounds of the Tower of London.
Quince lend themselves to being baked, or make delicious jellies
Quince prefer a moist but well-drained soil that’s loamy and slightly acidic, in a sunny, sheltered location. The heavy-cropping cultivars ‘Meeches Prolific’, ‘Serbian Gold’ and Vranja’ are good choices for the British climate.
They need little pruning, simply remove any dead or damaged branches during the winter, while also thinning out any congested stems. Follow up with a mulch around their base in spring, together with a scattering of general fertiliser such as Growmore.
Quince fruit on the tree, ready for picking in autumn. Photo: Shutterstock
The fruit is ready to harvest from October onwards when they have turned from light yellow to a rich gold colour. Check for blemishes and store on trays (don’t let the fruit touch) in a dry, dark place. Store for around six weeks before eating they will last in storage for around three months.
Try this recipe for pickled quinces!