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 moon, the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear (1812 - 1888) was first published in 1871 - click here to read the entire poem - The Owl and the Pussycat
Don't you love that word - runcible - but what the heck is a "runcible spoon"? I found several definitions on the web - mostly similar - so I am thinking it is a bit like a splade we know today - or a "spork" as Americans know it.
Here is the definition I found - "A fork curved like a spoon, with three broad prongs, one of which has a sharpened outer edge for cutting".
But it is not the runcible spoon that I am here to talk about - but I will talk about quinces....
I must admit that I have had a love affair with quinces since I was introduced to them a few years ago. I wasn't surprised to read that in Ancient Greece and Rome, the quince was a symbol of love and fertility.
According to - ABC's Gardening Australia - Quinces originated from Persia, now Iran, and then spread throughout the Mediterranean. (click on the ABC link to read their informative facts sheet)
You can see below a gorgeous botanical drawing by Franz Eugen Köhler in 1897 -
The quince grows on a small deciduous tree, a member of the apple and pear family, and we only seem to see them in our market here for a short time in winter, so I snap them up when I see them. It is now August (the last month of winter) and I have just read that their harvest season is from late March to May (Autumn) - so I don't know why I can only usually buy them around June-July (winter). I should ask the market!
They seem to be mostly only found in old orchards - The brother of a friend of mine has one on his family farm out in the Ferguson Valley. I was hoping to go out there this weekend and pick some quinces, but then she rang and told us the quinces are finished and the tree is completely bare! Hopefully I can go out there next year when the tree is in fruit. Here is a view of the Ferguson Valley, not far from Bunbury in Western Australia.
|beautiful Ferguson Valley, Western Australia|
One of my favourite weekend getaways is the Blackwood River Cottages located on a farming property edged by the Blackwood River and forrest in Nannup (you can see some pics below). There are stairs going down to an old garden orchard and I wonder now if there is a quince tree hidden in there somewhere.....
Quinces turn from green to yellow when they are ripe, and evidently are ready to pick when they start to drop from the tree. Even though the flesh is hard they bruise easily. The fruit can be stored for around three months in the refrigerator.
They also start to brown off quickly when cut as you can see in these images.
But beware - the fruit is very hard and cannot be eaten raw (however out of curiosity I did taste it today - it tastes a bit like furry pear). Wash the quinces to remove the "down", peel, core, and cut them into slices, (you might want to cover them in water as you do this as they brown quickly in the air after cutting) and then poach them gently in sugar and water. The slower and longer the cooking time the deeper rose colour they will become. I have read though it does depend a bit on the ripeness of the quinces - riper fruit turns a deeper colour.
I found this simple delicious recipe -
For about 4-5 quinces - peel, core and quarter the quinces (or thinner slices if large quinces).
Put in an oven-proof dish,
with juice and jest of 2 lemons and 1 orange (although I found that just one lemon was enough)
1 or 2 cinnamon sticks (1 is enough)
1 and a quarter cups of raw sugar
and about 500 mls water, enough to cover the fruit. (quantity dependent on the number and size of the quinces you have).
Cover with a piece of damp baking paper. Bake at 160-170 C for 2-3 hours.
Serve them up with dollops of cream or icecream - delicious! I really can't describe the incredible aroma and sweet-tart taste. Their gorgeous perfume invades the house when I cook them, and the flavour - oh my goodness - so divine. It is indescribable.
You can also make quince paste to spread on crackers with cheese or just spread on bread and enjoy!
And what about a piece of delicious quince pie for afternoon tea? Photographed in beautiful afternoon diffused by clouds natural light on my patio. The beautiful china came from my mother-in-laws china cabinet. It was given to her by her work friends when she married in the early 1950s. I think this delectable quince pie deserves beautiful china.
Quinces - have you tried them? Do you like them? And have you seen a runcible spoon?
Thank you for stopping by - I hope you have enjoyed learning about quinces, and if you haven't tried them that you will look for them in your market in Autumn. They really are delicious! I look forward to hearing from you.
I am linking up to Mosaic Monday, Our World Tuesday, Tuesday Around the World, Travel Photo Thursday, Oh the Places I've Been, and the "What's It Wednesday" party going on over at "Ivy and Elephants". Please click on the links to see fabulous contributions from around the world - virtual touring at its best!
Our World Tuesday
Tuesday Around the World
Travel Photo Thursday
Oh The Places I've Been
What's It Wednesday
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