By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach
Many people's experience of quince is quince paste served in posh restaurants as an accompaniment to cheese and crackers. Certainly if you have no experience with quinces you can be forgiven for walking past them in your local greengrocer store. They look a bit dusty and weird and most people wouldn't know what to do with them. The coarse gritty granules within the flesh of the fruit are full of tannins which bind to chemicals in the colon, protecting its mucous membrane from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and diverticulitis.
Rule number 1
Don't bite into one raw. Raw, quince are hard, sour, astringent and so high in tannins if they are eaten raw you'll feel like you're choking. Once cooked the tannins break down, and the flesh which was once coarse and white becomes tender, pink and beautifully fragrant.
Rule number 2
Don't worry about the light downy fur that covers some parts of the skin. It's not mould and it wipes off easily with a damp cloth.
Rule number 3
Quince oxidise quickly when exposed to air therefore if you're preparing a number of fruit in one go, soak the cut pieces in lemon water to prevent the cut edges turning brown.
Rule number 4
Be patient and cook it slowly. There's no hard work involved in preparing and cooking quince, they just need time. Slowly does it.
The history behind quince
Forget roses, a gift of quinces is a true sign of ardour and devotion. In Greek mythology the quince was the famous golden apple awarded by Paris to Aphrodite, goddess of love. In ancient Greece, it was heralded as a fruit of marriage and fertility and was often given as a wedding gift to the bride to sweeten her breath.
It's believed that quince originated from Caucasia, a region on the border between the Black and the Caspian seas separating Europe and Asia. In around 600 BC it made its journey to the Mediterranean regions of Europe finally reaching London. Edward 1 made quince famous by ordering trees to be planted at the Tower of London.
Health benefits of quince
Here's where quinces become really interesting.
Like pears and apples, quince are low in calories and contain numerous antioxidants, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
Ripe quince is a good source of vitamin C although because of the lengthy cooking time required much of this unstable nutrients may be lost.
Minerals are much more stable and are not destroyed through heat and cooking. Quince is also a good source of the minerals copper, iron, potassium, and magnesium and B group vitamins.
Some say quince may also have anti-allergenic and anti-inflammatory properties although this is not well documented.
Selection and Storage
Select firm, bright golden-yellow color fruits.
Quinces will store well for several weeks in the fridge.
To prepare, just wash the fruit in cold water and wipe with a cloth to remove the downy film on the skin. Cut the fruit in quarters and remove the core and seeds. Drop the pieces into acidulated water until you're ready to cook.
So how do you cook them?
There are lots of ways but personally I like to bake them slowly in sweetened water, or tea spiced up a little with cinnamon sticks and cardamon pod. I then cover the surface with a sheet baking paper, seal the tray with foil and bake them in the oven at a low temperature (about 160 centigrade)for at least 1 1/2 hours or until tender, pink and deliciously fragrant.
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