Quince (Cydonia oblonga)

This orchard tree is native to the Caucasus Mountains stretching from Turkestan to Iran and is from the rose family, same as apples and pears. The tree was first recorded in Britain in 1275 when four were planted at the Tower of London by Edward I. It gained favour owing to its hardiness and ease of cultivation, and a hundred years ago there would be a quine in almost every orchard. It requires a period with temperatures under 7 degrees C in order for the pale pink flowers to properly bloom in May. The hard fruit is ready to pick in October. These are cooked and extensively used in pies, jams and a harder jelly called 'cheese'. In Jewish mythology, it was the original apple of Eden, the serpent tempting Eve with the fruit. Quince fruit has also been linked with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and in 594BC Solon, the chief magistrate in Athens, declared it an officialy wedding food. In Edward Lear's 1871 poem 'The Owl and the Pussycat', they 'dined on mince and slices of quince', the author following this age-old tradition.