Closely related to apples and pears, the quince originated in western Asia; it's long been a staple there, as well as throughout the Mediterranean and parts of Latin America. Today, one quarter of the world’s crop is grown in Turkey, though California grows commercial quantities in the San Joaquin Valley. Their peak season runs from October to December, when they can be found at farmers' markets and specialty stores. Hard and astringent when raw, quince is almost always cooked before eating and is often made into a paste or preserves due to its high pectin content (in fact, the word marmalade is derived from marmelo, the Portuguese word for quince). We love them baked into pies and pancakes, stewed with apples, or poached and served with lamb.
HOW TO BUY
Look for firm, fragrant quinces that have bright yellow or golden skin. Avoid fruits with blemishes or soft spots.
HOW TO STORE
Quinces keep for up to two weeks at a cool room temperature. They can also be wrapped loosely in plastic and stored in the refrigerator for slightly longer. Like apples, they emit ethylene gas which will accelerate ripening in produce sensitive to it.
HOW TO PREPARE
Rinse quinces under cold water, rubbing off as much fuzz as possible. Cut away any brown spots. Use the entire fruit when making pastes and preserves, as the peel and core add flavor. Quarter, peel, and core when poaching or cooking with other ingredients. The flesh is cooked when a knife easily slides through.