‘Ayvayı yemek’, literally ‘to eat the quince-ayva’ in Turkish, is a sarcastic slang term used to indicate any troublesome situation or malevolent incident that may have already occurred or to be avoided in the future. This usage refers to the rather dry and sour aftertaste the quince may leave in the mouth.
I’m expressing that ‘I’ve already eaten the quince’, that is, I’m intimidated by the task of talking about the quince which I find intriguing like all the other wonderful fruits nature offers us.
To enjoy eating raw quince, one has to have acquired the taste and also, be able to discern the good tasting quince from the unpleasant tasting one so as not to experience what the expression ‘I ate the quince’ implies. The quinces are too astringent before they are sufficiently bletted.
High in pectin (a polysaccharide made of multiple chains of sugars that make up carbohydrates), in many countries around the world the quince is eaten cooked. They are peeled and roasted, baked or stewed. Quinces are also used to make jam, jelly and quince pudding. The term marmalade, originally meaning quince jam, derives from ‘marmelo’, the Portuguese word for the quince. Quince marmalade is one of my favorite fruit preserves.
Here is a recipe for the delicious desert called the ‘quince sweet’ from Turkey.
Directions: To prevent the quinces from browning during preparation, add plenty of water and the lemon juice into a deep bowl. Halve the quinces and hallow out the middle parts with the pits and place the halves in the bowl of lemon water as you go along. Save the pits to be used during cooking to give the quince an attractive red color.
When all the halves are peeled, arrange them in a wide pan with the smooth sides facing up. Add the cinnamon stick and the pits into the pan. Pour in the ½ c water. Distribute the sugar evenly on each piece of quince. Cover the pan and bring the water to a boil. Lower the heat and cook for 1-1.5 hours until the quinces soften and change color. Do not open the lid until the cooking is done. Let the quinces cool for 3-4 hours before serving.
Kaymak-a creamy dairy product, and grated pistachio nuts go well with the quince sweet. Walnuts or hazelnuts are favored also.
Kaymak: “Kaymak is customarily made in Central Asia, some Balkan countries, Turkic regions, Turkey, Iran and Iraq. The traditional method of making kaymak is to boil the milk slowly, then simmer it for two hours over a very low heat. After the heat source is turned off, the cream is skimmed and left to chill (and mildly ferment) for several hours or days. Kaymak has a high percentage of milk fat, and it has a thick, creamy consistency.
The word kaymak has Central Asian Turkic origins. Shops in Turkey have been devoted to kaymak production and consumption for centuries. Kaymak is mainly consumed today for breakfast along with the traditional Turkish breakfast. It is traditionally eaten with baklava and other Turkish desserts, fruit preserves and honey.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaymak)
Back to our fruit; the quince is native to rocky slopes and woodlands in South West Asia, Turkey and Iran, yet it can be grown successfully at latitudes as far north as Scotland. Turkey is the top producer followed by China.
The quince-Cydonia oblonga is the sole member of the genus Cydonia in the family Rosaceae (which also contains apples and pears, among other fruits). The quince tree is a small deciduous tree that bears what is called a ‘pome fruit’ in botany, after the Latin word for ‘fruit-pōmum’. Pome fruits have a core of several small seeds, surrounded by a tough membrane. Apples, pears, loquat, medlar are also examples of pome fruits, grown from spring blossom and harvested from late summer through to late autumn.
The immature fruit is green with dense grey-white pubescence, most of which rubs off before maturity in late autumn when the fruit changes color to yellow and acquires a hard and perfumed flesh.
The quince is bright golden-yellow when mature and 7 to 12 centimeters long and 6 to 9 centimeters across. It is similar in appearance to an apple (Cydonia oblonga v. maliformis) or to a pear (Cydonia oblonga v. piriformis). Most quinces grown in Turkey are of the second kind (with names like Limon, Demir, Ekmek or Bardak).
The quince tree is also grown for its attractive blossoms and other ornamental qualities. The tree grows 5 to 8 meters high and 4 to 6 meters wide.
The flowers, produced in spring after the leaves, are white or pale pink, 5 cm across, with five petals. The leaves are alternately arranged, simple, 6–11 cm long, with an entire margin and densely pubescent with fine white hairs.
Here are some interesting facts Wikipedia gives us about the quince:
The quince requires a cold period which is called vernalization* (below 7 °C) to flower properly. The tree is self-fertile; however, its yield can benefit from cross-fertilization. The fruit can be left on the tree to ripen further, which softens the fruit to the point where it can be eaten raw, but if that is the case they should be picked before the first frosts.
Among the many cultivars grown in Turkey, ‘Smyrna’ was first recognized in 1887. It stores longer than other varieties.
Cultivation of the quince may have preceded the apple culture. Among the ancient Greeks, the quince was a ritual offering at weddings, for it had come from the Levant with Aphrodite and remained sacred to her. It was with a quince that Paris awarded Aphrodite.
Plenty more is told about the past of this fabled fruit.
* Vernalization (from the Latin ‘vernus’-of the spring) is the acquisition of a plant's ability to flower in the spring by exposure to the prolonged cold of winter.