Quince - Encyclopedia

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QUINCE (Lat. Cydonia or Cotonea, Ital. Cotogna, Fr. coing, Mid. Eng. coin, qui p , whence a collective plural "quins," corrupted to singular "quince"), a fruit-tree concerning which botanists differ as to whether or not it is entitled to take rank as a distinct genus or as a section of the genus Pyrus (natural order Rosaceae, q.v.). It is not a matter of much importance whether we call the quince Pyrus Cydonia or Cydonia vulgaris. For practical purposes it is perhaps better to consider it as distinct from Pyrus, differing from that genus in the twisted manner in which the petals are arranged in the bud, and in the many-celled ovary, in which the numerous ovules are disposed horizontally, not vertically as in the pears. The quinces are much-branched shrubs or small trees with entire leaves, small stipules, large solitary white or pink flowers like those of a pear or apple, but with leafy calyx lobes and a many-celled ovary, in each cell of which are numerous horizontal ovules. The common quince is a native of Persia and Anatolia, and perhaps also of Greece and the Crimea, but in these latter localities it is doubtful whether or not the plant is not a relic of former cultivation. By Franchet and Savatier P. Cydonia is given as a native of Japan with the native name of "maroumerou." It is certain that the Greeks knew a common variety upon which they engrafted scions of a better variety which they called Kvaeoviov, from Cydon in Crete, whence it was obtained, and from which the later names have been derived. Pliny (H.N. xv. 11) mentions that the fruit of the quince, Malum cotoneum, warded off the influence of the evil eye; and other legends connect it with ancient Greek mythology, as exemplified by statues in which the fruit is represented, as well as by representations on the walls of Pompeii. The fragrance and astringency of the fruit of the quince are well known, and the seeds were formerly used medicinally for the sake of the mucilage they yield when soaked in water, a peculiarity which is not met with in pears. This mucilage is analogous to, and has the same properties as, that which is formed from the seeds of linseed.

The quince is but little cultivated in Great Britain, two or three trees planted in the slip or orchard being in general found to be sufficient for a supply of the fruit; in Scotland it seldom approaches maturity, unless favoured by a wall. The fruit has a powerful odour, but in the raw state is austere and astringent; it, however, makes an excellent preserve, and is often used to give flavour and poignancy to stewed or baked apples.

There are three principal varieties of the quince, the Portugal, the apple-shaped and the pear-shaped. The Portugal is a taller and more vigorous grower than the others, and has larger and finer fruit; the apple-shaped, which has roundish fruit, is more productive, and ripens under less favourable conditions than either of the others; while the pear-shaped has roundish-pyriform fruit, which ripens later than that of the apple-shaped variety.

The quince prefers a rich, light and somewhat moist soil. The tree is generally propagated by cuttings or layers, the former making the best plants, but being longer in growing. It is much used as a dwarfing stock for certain kinds of pears, and for this purpose the young plants when bedded out in the quarters should be shortened back to about 18 or 20 inches; the effect is to restrain the growth of the pear, increase and hasten its fruitfulness, and enable it to withstand the effects of cold. Those required to form standard fruit-bearing trees should be trained up to a single stem till a height of 5 or 6 feet is attained.

The common Japan quince, Pyrus or Cydonia japonica, is grown in gardens for the sake of its flowers, which vary in colour from creamy white to rich red, and are produced during the winter and early spring months. The fruit is green and fragrant but quite uneatable. C. Maulei, a more recently introduced shrub from Japan, bears a profusion of equally beautiful orange-red flowers, which are followed by fruit of a yellow colour and agreeable fragrance, so that, when cooked with sugar, it forms an agreeable conserve, as in the case of the ordinary quince.

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