Many, many years ago, when we lived in Oldham, Lancashire, we had a largish garden able to accommodate large shrubs. I had always loved Japonica, the ornamental quince; I loved its black bark, brilliant green leaves and above all those waxy petalled flowers. I remember them from my childhood as being a dark, rich red, thick and looking almost edible. We bought one, and it liked us and it grew.
When we moved from the north to the south-west, the Japonica came with us and was planted in our garden ten years ago when we moved to this house. It flourished and began to bear fruit, green knobbly fruit and being me and never wanting to waste anything, year after year I wondered what I could do with them and whether they were edible. Silly me, of course they are because the Japonica is after all an ornamental quince!
The first year I realised this I collected them all, they were big fruit now, with a gorgeous blush. They are extremely hard and peeling them was difficult. The flesh is pale and creamy and they are full of glossy black pips. I made some jam and I made some chilli jam. Delicious! The fruit is sharp and aromatic and with a most delicate yet pronounced flavour.
The next year a friend gave me quinces from her bush – hers were much yellower than mine and with a very strong lemony flavour. This time I used the fruit in pies and as a dessert… as well as making chilli jam!
This year I would like to make quince wine….