The Quince, Cydonia oblonga, is a popular tree that produces fruits much valued for making jams, jellies, and preserves. It is, however, too harsh to use uncooked. As canning and preserving fruit declined in early America, this tree has been replaced by its shrub cousins, such as the Japanese quince. Quince are still grown in areas of Australia and the UK for their pear-like fruit.
Quinces can be seriously injured by temperatures of 15-20 degrees below zero. They should be grown only in regions where Peaches are hardy. The plants bloom late, after the Apple, and consequently the flowers are not apt to be damaged by frost.
Quinces have the same site and soil requirements as most other deciduous fruit trees. Good air circulation, such as is provided on a slope, is desirable. Good drainage is essential, and heavy soil types are preferred, although good tree performance may be had on fertile sandy loams.
Either one or two year old trees may be set out, and planting is done in the same way as for the Apple. The tree is shaped at planting time in the same manner as for Apples, except that more scaffold branches may be restrained. Plant quinces about 12-15 ft. apart each way. They normally develop into small trees not over 15 feet in height.
The soil should be managed as for the Pear. Growth should be moderate rather than vigorous, as succulent, vigorous-growing twigs are very susceptible to fire blight, the most serious disease of Quinces. Clean cultivation with a cover crop, or mulching, if only a plant or two are grown in the garden, is satisfactory. Nitrogen fertilizers and manure should be used with great caution.
Pruning the Quince
The quince tree grows slowly and makes rather crooked branches. Very little pruning is needed; in fact, heavy pruning stimulates vigorous growth that is susceptible t blight. Dead wood and blight-killed twigs should be removed. Branches that interfere with one another should be removed, and the tree should be thinned lightly to stimulate a moderate amount of new growth. Large cuts should be avoided.
When to gather the fruit of the quince?
The fruit must be allowed to hang on the tree until fully matured and ripened, and are usually ready for gathering from the middle of October to early November, according to the season. On no account should the fruit be gathered until they will part readily from the tree with but the slightest leverage, or they will quickly shrivel and spoil. Well-ripened fruit gives off a powerful aroma, and at that time should practically drop off into the hand when lifted to a horizontal position.
Storing the Fruit
When gathered, the fruit may be stored in any cool, frost-proof room or shed for a month or two, providing they are picked when quite dry and ar wiped with a clean cloth before being laid out in single layers on a shelf, or in shallow trays. It is unwise to store the quince with other fruit, as they may be quickly tainted with their peculiar odor and flavor.
Quinces are propagated by budding on the Angus Quince rootstock, or on Quince seedlings. Some varieties may be raised from hardwood cuttings. Layering is also practiced, especially for increasing the rootstocks. There are two methods of layering. The mound or stool method of layering is perhaps the most common method adopted.
Varieties of Quinces
The Orange Quince is the best and most widely grown variety. Others are Champion, Pineapple, and Van Deman. The varieties have not changed for many years. Quinces are self-fertile, so provision for cross-polination is not necessary.