The quince is an unusual fruit. Is it like an apple or more like a pear?

by Ken C | Last Updated: 28/07/2021

If you’ve ever heard The Owl and the Pussycat nursery rhyme, you’ll know that they dined on mince and slices of quince.

But is the quince like an apple or like pear? Or, is it simply like quince?

I was lucky enough to visit Wilkin & Son at Tiptree recently, so join me as I learn from their Farm Manager Andrey Ivanov all there is to know about the quince.


Ken Crowther
So what do you reckon this is? Yes, look, still in flower. You might be confused let’s have a look at a couple of the flowers. There you are, now there’s a flower down there. Yes, it’s a tree. Yes, it’s a glossy leafed tree. And we’re at Wilkin and Son at Tiptree and with me I’ve got Farm Manager Andre. Now, what are we looking at? I know but tell us more.

Andrey Ivanov
So this is our er one of our quince orchards, and this quince tree it’s er very unusual. Er, I don’t know I don’t know how many farms around the country are growing them but we still do them so we still grow them on site.

Ken Crowther
Now I think it’s quince jelly you’re famous for aren’t you?

Andrey Ivanov
Yeah that’s that’s what it is.

Ken Crowther
It is isn’t it.

Andrey Ivanov
Yeah once the fruit is ready so we can see flowers still there but also the petals started to fall and we have already set fruit it looks like it’s gonna be good year for quinces.

Ken Crowther
There’s a lot isn’t there.

Andrey Ivanov
Yeah, this year erm.

Ken Crowther
Now, what are the quince are a bit of a confusing fruit aren’t they? I mean what what are they the closest thing to? I mean are they an apple? Are they a pear? No, they’re a quince you’ll tell me.

Andrey Ivanov
Yeah, they’re quince but they’re closer you know from the same family have their apples and they just harder fruit and these quince is also got a very solid flavor as well you can’t just bite it and eat it is very high on… Which element was there?

Ken Crowther
It’s hard to eat anyway.

Andrey Ivanov
It’s hard to eat yeah. It’s not very pleasant to eat but there’s different varieties which are very pleasant this is this is hard to eat and that’s why it’s very good for jelly and putting it into jelly for the jam.

Ken Crowther
Now the thing about them is when when do they get picked? Because it’s actually a long a long period isn’t it? Is it late picking on these?

Andrey Ivanov
Quinces are normally picked around October time.

Ken Crowther
So it is late.

Andrey Ivanov
Yeah, it is late It’s yeah, the fruit needs to from this stage to grow. And this year because it’s a late flowering late season, we could be picking even later than October. It could be into November. Who knows

Ken Crowther
You mentioned an interesting thing there that you know you’re on a farm you’re going to know more about I mean I work in gardens and I can say well you know it is a strange year lawns are growing like mad weeds are growing like mad. And some flowers are behind but other flower and shrub are ahead. So how are you finding it on a farm? Is it very much behind just like you’re saying about the quince here?

Andrey Ivanov
Yeah, everything this year is slightly behind we would say with some of the crops there we are three to four weeks behind some of them two weeks behind depends on what stage they were in April because April was the coldest month for the last nearly 100-years so since 1922 and that you know didn’t surprise us you know with the late fruit and late development for all the all the species raised on the farm. So, one of those things I’m afraid and we always say no two years are the same in farming. You know, one year you doesn’t matter how much you plan it so we’re in the hands of God really and weather events what the weather does, and we just follow the plants and how they develop.

Ken Crowther
Now you mentioned er the late coldness. Now you grow plum as well don’t you here? A bit of plum.

Andrey Ivanov
Yes.

Ken Crowther
Now plum flowers quite early, did that get affected by the cold?

Andrey Ivanov
So, it’s strange saying that. So we’ve got three varieties on-site. We’ve got victoria we’ve got green gauges and damsons and so victoria was a little bit early flowering and that got some damage on the flower but victoria is known for flowering too much in too big a set and every year we have to thin the plants. This year they were thinned naturally. Actually looking at the crops now, yes, the crop is reduced but we don’t need to do anything. So I believe the crop the kilograms per hectare per acre will be still there because the fruit will be better or bigger.

Ken Crowther
So that’s intriguing isn’t it is, nature has sorted itself out there.

Andrey Ivanov
It sometimes happens. But it all depends on the circumstances. So yeah, if it’s in flower we always worry, and if we get frost at that stage, we always worry what’s going to happen. But it seems to be this year yes we had that frost we had that cold month, but it seems to be the trees which are outside they are affected to some extent but not that much as we will, you know expecting initially

Ken Crowther
I must now ask about the cherries because now the cherries are normally undercover aren’t they?

Andrey Ivanov
Cherries, yeah that’s why I didn’t mention because everything what’ undercover cherries, strawberries, raspberries they were delayed but no effects on them.

Ken Crowther
That’s fascinating.

Andrey Ivanov
I think that’s what the covers are, that’s why we put these very simple but it’s effective.

Ken Crowther is an award winning broadcaster, author and member of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture. He has been gardening for over 50 years and his knowledge and experience are drawn on to provide advice and information about garden design, plants for all seasons, gardening techniques and gardening tips. Gardening with Ken's broad appeal means he reaches a wide audience across the UK from amateur gardeners to top level horticulturists.