Unusual fruit trees to plant in north Cyprus – the Quince

quincePerhaps, like me, you are planting trees and are wondering what to grow. I’ve got the usual oranges, lemons and pomegranates and have an almond and mulberry tree but I wanted something different. I have an area of ground which is sloped and faces north towards the sea and noticed that a neighbour with a similar garden was growing trees I did not recognise.  One of these turned out to be a quince (Turkish – ayva).

The quince tree is frost hardy but requires a cold period below 7 °C to flower properly. Unfortunately in places away from the warming effect of the sea, around January and February this temperature is usually reached overnight. The tree is self fertile, but its yield can be improved from cross fertilization. They are not grown in large amounts and usually one or two quince trees are grown in a mixed orchard along with apple and other fruit trees.  I found my tree from Perova  garden centre, in Alsancak, west of Girne.

The fruit can be left on the tree to ripen so it can be eaten raw in warmer climates. They are used to make jam, jelly and quince pudding, or they may be peeled, then roasted, baked or stewed. The flesh of the fruit turns red after a long cooking time. The very strong perfume means they can be added in small quantities to apple pies and jam to enhance the flavour. The term “marmalade”, originally meaning a quince jam, derives from “marmelo,” the Portuguese word for this fruit.

In the Canary Islands and some places in South America a quince is used to play a beach toss-and-swim game. The reason for this is that when mixed with salt water this will turn a mature quince’s taste from sour to sweet. The game is played by throwing a quince into the sea and whoever catches it, takes one bite and throws the quince again until the quince is fully eaten.

Instructions for eating this fruit are also found in Edward Lear’s famous poem “The Owl and the Pussycat” where guests “dined on mince and slices of quince, which they ate with a runcible spoon”.

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