Japonica Quince (Chaenomeles)

I love love LOVE the red flowers and climbing geometric branching of this ornamental plant, and never quite realised the fruits were edible until a friend Sheila, knowing my predilections, offered me the crop from her back garden. Her mother made jelly with these back in the day, and maybe I’d want to too?

I am a keen learner and experimenter, though was slightly daunted by the thought of time required, and am ever aware that these kind of activities represent a  luxury of time and energy– even if I am staying up too late and slightly cursing myself all the while.

I did happen to have some larger proper quince, and with my friend Emily did a comparison– Japonica more astringent, a lemon perfume to the orange fragrance of the Quince.   Japonica reminded Emily, and I could somehow agree, of those old-fashioned candies, violet and lilac  — an echo of a perfume…  hard to define except in dreamlike reference to something else…

Thank you to EdibleThings http://ediblethings.net/2013/01/04/jam-and-japonica/ to whom Google led me, for leading me to the Wikipedia definition of Bletting which as a concept has so many metaphors and so much resonance in many aspects of fruit gathering and harvesting .http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bletting  Where there was “rot” in the fruit there was fragrance — these japonicas are so much about the smell.  And the colour– an incredible yellow after simmered then pureed through the food mill.

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I’d also been really amazed at how easy it was to collect the seeds.

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I had read that quince seeds are a traditional mucilaginous remedy for sore throats and chesty coughs, and was hoping the same to be true of these wonderful cousins,.    http://mypersiankitchen.com/quince-seeds-persians-remedy-to-soar-throat-and-cough/    As with apple seeds, one would need A LOT, like a cup at a time, for toxic effect, so worry not with a teaspoon of seeds soaked for a tea– at least I, worry wort queen, would not worry.

What I did with all that pulp: 5 jars of a preserve, not sure what to call it, maybe Japonica Butter —  for each cup, three-quarters a cup of sugar, Cinnamon and Ginger, Nutmeg and Cloves to give a medieval feel and to hear in my heart Maddy Prior singing Of All the Birds (can’t find a link), a wonderful song from a long-gone Steeleye Span record.  I mixed a little with some yoghurt, and I think it will be wonderful as a compote, also maybe as a filling for a gingerbread cake, or on a scone, or as Christmas gifts.  Maybe in a tart or crumble, cobbler or Japonica Quince Betty.

And the pulp strained from the “butter”– well–  I mixed it with water, kept it in an  open top jar for a few days, stirring all the while to let it ferment and keep it simultaneously aerobic, and it’s becoming an ever more acidic wild vinegar (see the post below on making scrap vinegars)– a really beautiful, perfumy vinegar, like no other smell I’ve smelled– maybe like a hyacinth dancing a citrus rhumba.

On the subject of Japonica perfume: a friend told me back in the day a famed use for these garden fruits was as a room freshener, on the mantle or kitchen table.  Let it blet just a little, then — inhale –an incredible, intoxicating fragrance. This is something that might have been familiar to some grandmothers’ grandmother…

So the fruit of Ornamental Japonica– now I know.   Perfumy, bright, historical, astringent, beautiful, laborious, fanciful, foragable from gardens urban and suburban.

POSTSCRIPT 4 Dec 2013:   My friend and “Horticultural Tutor” Emma Maxwell was keen that I understand the following:

True  Quince (Cydonia oblonga) Quince, Cydonia oblonga, is the sole member of the genus Cydonia in the family Rosaceae (which also contains apples and pears).Flowering quinces of eastern Asia in the genus Chaenomeles, also in the family Rosaceae.

So I guess these are clues to research whether all those seeds I lovingly saved are useful or not in therapeutic teas.  Or useful simply to plant for a new shrub?

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