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You may have read about it in a cookbook or even saw it at the grocery store, but chances are that you’ve never actually eaten a quince. Pronounced the same way as “quints,” this under-the-radar fruit resembles a strange-looking pear, and it’s delicious, versatile, and very healthy for you due to its high level of fiber, antioxidants, and other important nutrients.
So, if you’re looking for a way to put a healthy new twist onto your autumn dinner party menu, read on to learn more about quince.
Let’s start with the basics: According to the USDA, one quince contains 52 calories, 0.37 grams of protein, 0.09 grams of fat, 14 grams of carbohydrates, 1.7 grams of fiber, and 13 grams of sugar. They’re an adequate source of vitamin C, potassium, iron, copper, and zinc, as well as pectin.
Quince are native to the Caucasus and northern Persia, but later spread to the eastern Mediterranean basin, according to SplendidTable.org. Quince was considered a prize fruit during ancient Greek times, and quince jelly was served at medieval courts and banquets for dessert in France, Italy, and Spain. Quince is popular today in parts of Mexico and Latin America, where apple trees don’t thrive.
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Quince: Types and Taste
There are multiple varieties of quince, which turn from light green to bright yellow when ripened. The most popular ones include Orange, Pineapple, Champion, Smyrna, Cooke’s Jumbo, and Rich’s Dwarf.
If you’ve never had a quince before, you might wonder what it tastes like. Well, the fruit belongs to the pome fruit family and is a relative of the apple and pear. Some say that, when cooked, the taste does fall somewhere in between an apple and a pear, but it can vary depending on the variety. While quince grown in hotter countries can be enjoyed raw, most varieties of quince found in stores are high in tannins, which can give them an astringent taste that mellows out only when cooked.
5 Health Benefits of Quince
#1 Quince can help you control your weight.
Not only are quince low in saturated fat and calories, they’re also rich in fiber, which helps you stay fuller longer. For more information on how to control your weight through your diet, check out Avoiding Weight Gain: Foods to Help You Stay Slim.
#2 They can help relieve various digestive issues.
Quince is rich in pectin, a type of fiber that is often used to treat stomach ulcers, diarrhea, and GERD. This fruit is also used as a natural reliever of morning sickness, and general nausea and vomiting.
FUN QUINCE FACTS
- The average life span of a cultivated quince tree is about 50 years.
- The world’s largest quince was grown in Citronelle, Ala. It weighed 5 pounds, 2 ounces and measured 8.5 inches in length.
- Quince was sacred to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and fertility.
#3 Quince can help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
In addition to relieving digestive issues, pectin is also known to promote healthy cholesterol levels. And because it’s a rich source of potassium, quince can also help keep your blood pressure in check.
#4 They’re rich in antioxidants.
Quince contains high levels of antioxidants, including phenolic and phytonutrient compounds, which can eliminate free radicals in the body and reduce your risk of developing cancer. For more on antioxidants and how they benefit your health, check out What Do Antioxidants Do? And Why Are They Important?
#5 They have anti-inflammatory properties.
The vitamin C found in quince also help fight against free radicals, which can cause inflammation. Various studies show that vitamin C intake is inversely related to C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a high blood marker for inflammation. For more about CRP, check out The Role of Inflammation in Fatigue.
How to Choose and Prepare Quince
Because quince isn’t the most popular fruit out there—at least in the U.S.— you may have a difficult time finding them, depending on where you live. You’ll most likely see them during the months of October through March at your local farmer’s market.
When picking quince, the fresh ones will feel heavy in your hand, smell fragrant, and be free of bruises or blemishes. The larger and smoother the quince appears and feels, the easier it will be to peel. Try one of these methods of preparing quince:
- Poach them in honey, cloves, cinnamon, and star anise for a snack on their own or as a topping for yogurt, hot cereal, or ice cream.
- Bake them into a pie as a unique alternative to apple pie (see recipe below).
- Puree them into a paste (called membrillo in Spain) and serve with cheese.
- Boil them with water, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest to make a simple jam for toast and roasted meats.
HONEY-POACHED QUINCE PIE
- 3 pounds quince, peeled, cored and sliced
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 recipe pastry for a 9-inch double crust pie
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Combine the sliced quince, honey, water, and a pinch of salt in a pan (you should have about 9 cups of sliced fruit). Cover the pan and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to very low. Simmer, covered, until the fruit is tender, about 8 minutes, stirring carefully once or twice to avoid breaking the fruit.
- Put a strainer over a saucepan and pour the cooked quince into a strainer, reserving the cooking liquid. Set the quince aside to cool.
- Roll out the pastry and line a 9-inch pie plate. Refrigerate the dough while you prepare the filling.
- Combine the white sugar, cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and flour in a small bowl and mix well. Add the sugar mixture and the butter to the reserved quince cooking liquid and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool.
- Place a sheet pan on the lowest rack of the oven. Preheat an oven to 500 degrees F (260 degrees C). Pour the cooled quince into the pastry-lined pan and cover with the sauce. Add the top crust, crimping the edge to seal. Cut vents or prick the crust with a fork to allow steam to escape.
- Put the pie on the preheated sheet pan and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Bake until the edges of the crust are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and bake until the juices are bubbling and the crust is brown, about 45 minutes more. Cool on a rack at least two hours before serving.
Recipe courtesy of AllRecipes.com