Deciduous tree growing to 26 ft (8 m). Has green-grey oval leaves, pink or white flowers, and yellow, pear-shaped sweet-smelling fruit.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to southwest and central Asia, quince has become naturalized in Europe, especially in the Mediterranean region. It grows in damp, rich soils in hedges and copses. The fruit is harvested when ripe in autumn.
The fruit contains tannin, pectin, and fruit acids; the seeds contain about 20% mucilage, cyanogenic glycosides (including amygdalin), fixed oil, and tannins.
History & Folklore
The quince has long been prized as a fruit and medicine in Greece and the eastern Mediterranean. It was used as an astringent in the time of Hippocrates (460–377 BCE). Dioscorides (40–90 CE) records a recipe for quince oil, which was applied to itchy and infected wounds and spreading sores. In northerly climates, quince is often cooked to make a preserve. The English word “marmalade,” meaning citrus fruit jam, comes from the Portuguese word for quince, marmelo.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
The great astringency of the unripe fruit makes it useful as a remedy for diarrhea, one that is particularly safe for children. The fruit and its juice can also be taken as a mouthwash or gargle to treat canker sores, gum problems, and sore throats. When cooked, much of the fruit’s astringency is lost; quince syrup is recommended as a pleasant, mildly astringent, digestive drink. The seeds contain significant quantities of mucilage and are helpful both in treating bronchitis and as a bulk laxative.
Do not use the seeds except under professional supervision.