When a baby is born in Slavonia and Croatia, a quince tree is planted as a symbol of fertility, love and life. WIKIPEDIA
In my poem raining quinces, the quince is meant to stand for something luscious and exotic. However, I've been vaguely concerned that the celebrated tartness of the raw fruit ran counter to my symbolic intention. So I've been doing a little research - and, thankfully, I needn't have worried. The quince is as romantically exotic as a fruit can ever be. And, although most varieties are astringent, some sweeter varieties have now been developed which can be eaten in their raw, uncooked state.
The quince, or Cydonia oblonga, is the only member of the genus Cydonia, though there are four other species belonging to separate genera - one from China and three from eastern Asia - which are closely related. It's a small, deciduous tree, growing from 5 to 8 metres tall. The flowers are pink or white, with five petals, and the fruit changes from green to a lemony yellow as it ripens. The flesh of the ripened fruit is known for its strong perfume. It's a native of the Caucasus region of south-west Asia - home to the Caucasus Mountains and Mount Elbrus, Europe's highest peak.
Quince cultivation is very old, and probably predated the cultivation of apples and pears - to which the quince is related. In fact, the word 'apple' in many ancient texts, including the Bible's Song Of Solomon, may often have been wrongly translated - and should be 'quince'.
References to the quince abound in Greek and Roman mythology as a symbol of love and desire or a symbol of paradise. It's the sacred fruit of Aphrodite, goddess of sex, love and beauty. It was the 'golden apple' in the Garden of the Hesperides, the mythical Greek paradise - giving its name to the Italian word for tomato, pomodoro. It was a ritual offering at weddings in Ancient Greece. And, on her wedding night, a Greek bride would eat a quince to perfume her breath before kissing her new husband - rather like we might suck on a mint today (sorry to be so unromantic!)
On the French and Spanish Caminos you're never far from a quince jelly or jam (quince is coing in French and membrillo in Spanish). Quinces are also used to make cordials, teas, wines, brandies and liqueurs. In Spain I often enjoyed dulce de membrillo, a delicious quince jelly traditionally eaten with manchego cheese.
|The Golden Apple|
They dined on mince, and slices of quince, / Which they ate with a runcible spoon; / And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand, / They danced by the light of the moon. EDWARD LEAR
(All images from Wikimedia Commons)