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Simply Quince

…introduces the heirloom fruit to professional chefs, home cooks, and gardeners. Traditional quince lovers will be delighted to find jam, jelly, and cobbler recipes; beginning cooks will find success preparing Candied Quince and Quince Salsa; and professional chefs will expand their repertoire with a wide array of savory-sweet stews, exotic mains, condiments, and spectacular pastries. Buy This Book Here.

Pinnacle Award

Winner, Best Cookbook, NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Award 2009

Best Book Award

Finalist, Best Cookbook, USA Book News 2009

Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist

Finalist, Best Cookbook & Home Garden,
Next Generation Indie Book Award 2010

Best Books 2009 Awards

Simply Quince Book Review

Next time you’re searching for a jar of unusual jam or jelly, see if there’s one made out of quinces. If well-made, you will be rewarded with an unusual tasting experience from this fruit with its subtile and exotic rose-like flavor.

The fruit (The Golden Apple) resembles a fuzz-covered cross between an apple and a pear. It is seldom eaten raw because its flesh is quite firm and its taste more astringent than sweet. But its high pectin count is a bonus for making jellies, preserves and marmalades. And its flavor is hard to beat.

We learn from the definitive book, Simply Quince, that the quince has had a long history from beginnings in the Middle East—at first in Persia (Iraq) and then to Armenia, Georgia, and other countries.

It was brought to America by the Puritans in 1629 where the fruit was popular until the late 19th century when it lost out to regular apples, and more devastating to the development of artificial pectin.

The author tells us she was infatuated with quinces ever since she was a child. “Everyone in my family was weaned on Grandma’s delicious ruby-red quince preserves.” And she recalls how her five-foot-tall grandmother on a step stool would harvest the sun-ripened fruit from the tangled branches from trees in her backyard.

After her grandmother passed away, the author took over the family tradition of quincing, using it in unique salads, savory stews, condiments for roasted meats, and a wide variety of desserts. Her hope is for more cooks to turn this mysterious ancient fruit into-easy-to prepare and delicious dishes, condiments and desserts. “Once you begin eating this fruit you may be obsessed with its versatility and flavor,” she says.

The author tells exactly how to peel and cut up the quince and notes that the quince is the “quintessential slow-food” fruit. “You really can’t overcook it and it stubbornly retains its composition and shape!”

The would-be quince cook is treated to more than 70 enticing recipes, including some with beautiful photographs of the finished dishes.

For those baking apple pies this time of year, try mixing poached quinces with the apples for that extra flavor. She also bakes pies in a paper bag. “Odd as it sounds, baking a pie in a paper bag ensures even cooking and browning.

For the main course she recommends Armenian lamb-stuffed quince dolmas (stuffed vegetables) or duck breast with quincesambal (a chile-based) chutney.

For those making jams and jellies try her recipes for quince marmalade, including ones with lemon, orange or orange-ginger added. The author tells us marmalades originated in Portugal where early cooks added citrus peels to a quince base.

There are recipes for German quince pancakes, caramelized quince upside-down cake, quince-apple-peach compote, and quince and red pepper chutney. And much more!

Barbara Ghazarian is also the author of Simply Armenian: Naturally Healthy Ethnic Cooking Made Easy. She lives part of the time in Newport, Rhode Island, where she is growing a quince tree cared for by friends and neighbors when she is at home in Monterey, CA.

For Vermonters and others living in a similar climate quince cultivars recommended by Lewis Hill and Leonard Perry in their Fruit Gardener’s Bible are Cooke’s Jumbo, Orange, Pineapple, and Smyma. These are described in Barbara’s book. Quince trees grow to about 15 feet tall and one tree alone can produce enough fruit for one family. Quince trees require little pruning and they usually live a long life, up to 50 years of more. That’s a lot of quince jam!

Charles Sutton
Vermont Country Sampler, October 2012

The Root Simple Interview

QueenofQuinceA conversation about the ultimate slow food, quince, with Barbara Ghazarian, author of Simply Quince and Simply Armenian. If you have room, you should definitely make room for a quince tree. If not, you should work with this amazing fruit. During the podcast Barbara discusses how to prep and cook quince. We also talk about savory dishes made with quince and take a detour into a discussion about muhammara.

Click here to listen to the interview.

The Root Simple Podcast
Root Simple, October 15th, 2014

Rich talks with Barbara Ghazarian aka “Queen of Quince”

Click here to listen to part one.
Click here to listen to part two.

Ag Life Weekend with Rich Rodriguez
Power Talk Radio Fresno 96.7FM/1400AM, November 23rd, 2013

A New Taste for Quince

Click here to view or download the PDF of this article.

David Karp
CRFG Fruit Gardener, September & October 2010

Quince: The Perfumed Fruit

On a hot July morning, I drove a short distance inland from a beach full of surfers past tidy stone walls, purple-blue hydrangeas, and shin­gled capes to Rocky Brook Orchard in Middletown, Rhode Island. Greg Ostheimer, ‘the orchardist, admitted that he had never heard of quinces before he bought the small orchard in 1999. But scattered among the apples he found a few old quince trees; the interest of devoted customers, many from the local Portuguese-rooted community, led him to plant more varieties. “At the end of October,” he said, “you walk by one and it’s amazing. They smell like apples taste — like apples should smell.”

I had been led to Rocky Brook by Barbara Ghazarian, author of the cookbook Simply Quince, who spends her summers near that surfing beach. The orchard is close to Newport on Aquidneck Island, one of the first places in North America where quinces were planted after the Massachusetts Bay colonists arrived. Ghazarian grew up about 60 miles away in the Massachusetts mill town of Whitinsville, where her Armenian great-grandparents settled in the early 1900s. There they found a number of well-established backyard quince trees. The fruit provided an unexpected and welcome taste of home; from it they made chunky preserves and jelly, never requiring manufactured pectin thanks to the fruit’s naturally high levels. Ghazarian believes that it may contain the highest pectin amount of any fruit. (Research shows that only certain citrus may be higher. Marmalada, or marmalade, was originally a solid quince paste; marmelo is Portuguese for quince.) Joseph Postman, the USDA’s quince expert, says the fruit is so high in pectin that simply soaking the seeds in water can produce a gel. In early America, he said, “Everyone had a quince tree as a source of pectin before we had little packages.”

Cydonia oblunga, a close relation to apples and pears, is named for the city of Cydon, in Crete, where it grew wild, as it did across the Caucasus, including modern-day Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and the current largest producer, Turkey. “The trees are shaped like an Armenian, as wide as they are tall,” Ghazarian told me with a smile, standing by the single quince tree in her condo’s tiny front yard. She showed me how she had tucked each of the small, fuzzy, pear-shaped fruits into the toe of a nylon stocking that had been soaked in white clay, an organic defense against the codling moths that threaten the tree every year. “They invade, but not as badly,” she said. “When I pull into the driveway in the fall, I’m still hit by that rose-guava smell.”

Without their intoxicating scent, it is likely that quinces would be even rarer today than they are, espe­cially now that we have less need of the fruit’s pectin. The flavor is often mentioned as an afterthought to the scent, which has elements of rose, honey, vanilla, pear, guava, and pineapple. Writing about quinces in his Natural History, the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder doesn’t once mention their flavor but cites the “exquisite,” “pungent,” and “powerful” smell of different varieties. In his seminal book, Quince Culture, published in 1888, William Meech wrote that the fruit “is yearly forwarded as presents to Bagdad, where the highly perfumed odor is found so powerful, that if there be but a single quince in a caravan, no one who accompanies it can remain unconscious of its presence.” More recently, a Vermont orchardist told me he uses a ripe quince as an air freshener in his car “to get out the dog smell.”

The fragrance offers a preview of quince flavor, but rarely does that emerge until the fruit has undergone a long, slow cooking with copious amounts of sweetener, which transforms the ivory color into a compelling deep rose. The science isn’t completely understood, but apparently the heat and sugar act together to change the color in the peeled flesh (although heat alone pulls color from the cores and peels into cooking water). Raw quinces are generally very hard, almost woody — barely edible. Every year, the Rhode Island orchardist Ostheimer said, “I have to tell people: ‘Those funny-looking fruit that you think are pears are quince.’ And I can’t tell you how many I find on the ground with one bite out of them.” The holy grail of quince-lovers like Ghazarian and writer David Karp, a pomologist and citrus researcher with the University of California, is a variety that can be eaten fresh. As Karp once wrote in the (Newark) Star-Ledger, “Modern consumers have no patience for fruit that requires cooking.”

Historically and around the world, there have been reports of quinces with comparatively sweet and juicy raw flesh. “This fruit at Hebron is so mild that many eat it out of hand, as we do apples and pears,” Meech wrote. The cause, explained Postman, a plant pathologist and a curator with the National Clonal Germplasm Repository of the USDA Agricultural Research Service, seems less related to variety than to climate. Postman manages the quince collection in Corvallis, Oregon, which includes about 140 unique varieties, about half of which are edible, the rest being wild or used as rootstock for pear trees. Unlike apples and pears, quince trees grown from seed can be fairly true to the parent plant. He has visited quince-growing countries around the world, including Armenia, where varieties are classed as sour or sweet, but “in Oregon,” he said, “we don’t get enough sun to get them sweet.” Postman named one newly documented variety Karp’s Sweet after David Karp, who brought it to his attention. In warm climates, it can stay on the tree long enough to become quite edible without cooking, but Karp himself clarified to me over the phone that “Karp’s Sweet quince in California would be Karp’s Sour in Oregon.”

The San Joaquin Valley of California is the only place in the U.S. that produces a commercial crop of any size, though only about 300 acres’ worth. Most of the trees belong to the variety Pineapple, introduced by Luther Burbank in 1899. The fruit is harvested from mid-August through November and is usually avail­able through January. Quinces have been studied in the United States largely for their importance as dwarfing rootstock for pears, although, Postman said, in the last ten to 15 years there has been increasing interest in the fruit for its own merits. He focuses his research on disease resistance, cold hardiness, blossoming and ripening times, and overall genetic diversity, not much on flavor. Said Karp with regret, “There’s a world of quince bounty in Corvallis waiting to be evaluated by those with interest, but nobody here is paying much attention to commercial production…You could have the best quince in the world, but it’s just not a big enough market.”

Last fall, I organized a tasting of four varieties. Three came from Scott Farm in southern Vermont, which specializes in heirloom apples and has about 50 quince trees. During my mid-October visit, they hung heavy with luminously golden, voluptuously contoured Champion, Tashkent, and Kuganskaya quinces. The fourth variety was California-raised Pineapple, bought at my northern Vermont food co-op. The Pineapple quinces were a disappointment, with barely a wisp of the essential fragrance and a very subdued flavor when cooked. The fruits had perhaps been picked too early, although Ghazarian has noted a distinct lack of aroma in most commercially grown California quinces, while Karp explained that the warmer climate can result in a mellower, less acidic flavor. The smaller, rounder Vermont-grown Tashkent was our favorite for its full flavor, balanced between tart and sweet, and the cooked texture of a firm pear. Champion, a fairly common variety, resembled a large citron and had denser flesh than the other varieties, which cooked up nicely though it retained a slight bitter edge (another time, Champions from the same orchard didn’t have any bitterness). Kuganskaya had the densest texture and blandest flavor. Of the most widely available varieties, Karp prefers Smyrna, which was brought to California from western Anatolia in 1897. For those considering planting their own, Postman recommends Aromatnaya from southern Russia, “a good producer.”

For the tasting, in addition to basic sweetened, poached quince, I also made a veal and quince khoresh (a traditional meat stew often made with fruit) from Food of Life, Najmieh Batmanglij’s cookbook of ancient and modern Persian food; an elegant quince and goat cheese tart from Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors; as well as jelly and a classic quince paste, known to many as membrillo. Ghazarian thinks many quince recipes contain too much spice and overwhelm the fruit’s flavor. One of her favorite quince recipes is her grandmother’s for preserves; it calls for laboriously cutting the raw quarters into slices before cooking them simply with sugar and a little lemon juice. In her quince cookbook, she calls it Ottoman Quince Preserve: “If your family is from the Ottoman Empire, this is what your mom made,” she said. “If you got too many worms, you made jelly.” Sitting on her Rhode Island porch, Ghazarian also shared tips for selecting and handling the rock-hard fruit. One tricky thing is judging ripeness, because quinces will not ripen fully off the tree unless they are already well on their way. “Do not buy green ones,” Ghazarian emphasized. “Buy them as golden as possible. A touch of green is okay and then you can let them ripen at room temperature.” If you happen to be picking them yourself, a quince grower I met in New Zealand suggested putting a hand beneath a promising fruit and lifting it sideways. “If it comes off in your hand,” he said, “it’s ripe.”

Carefully and precisely, Ghazarian explained how to prepare quince for cooking and warned against using your good knives, saying, “You’ll ruin them.” She first rubs any down from the quince skin, slices the stem and flower ends from the fruit and then peels it with a broad-bladed potato peeler (sometimes called a Y-peeler) vertically from cut end to cut end before slicing the flesh from the core. “Never go through the core,” she cautioned, “or you can get pieces like bone fragments in your fruit.” To scoop out any remaining edges of core and to remove any bruised flesh, she uses a sharp-edged, pointed peach pitter, which she dubbed the “Fresno Armenian Ladies’ Kitchen Widget” because every cook in that community near her West Coast home has one tucked in her kitchen drawer. A sharp melon bailer works too. Ghazarian agrees with New York chef Peter Hoffman, of Back Forty and the recently closed Savoy, who believes that the best results come from cooking quince as slowly as possible over very low heat to preserve its shape and texture. Hoffman likes to serve poached quince in a pool of vanilla custard or in a tart with pastry creme and almond paste. He pairs a vinegar-spiked quince compote with pork and recommends Jane Grigson’s ratafia liqueur infused with grated quince from her book Good Things. Like Ghazarian, he also believes that spicng should be minimal, to ensure that the “unique fragrance is still there in the final cooked version. At the end of the day, that is what the allure is.”

US Nursery Sources for Quince Trees
Quince trees are small and attractive, blooming pink and white in late spring. In North America, they grow best in zones 5 through 9 in protected, full-sun locations. Although they are hardy down to -15 degrees F (-25 degrees C), in warmer regions the fruit will ripen more fully on the tree. The trees prefer soil with neutral pH. Fire blight can be a serious problem, and wet, humid conditions can cause almost-ripe fruit to crack. Quinces are self-pollmating but will yield more with cross-pollination. Ornamental quinces, including Japanese flowering quince (Chaenomeles japonica) and Chinese quince (Pseudocydonia sinensis), also produce fruit that can be cooked and tastes much like true quince, but they are no more closely related to Cydonia oblonga than to apples. In addition to the varieties in the article, Cooke’s Jumbo, as its name indicates, has large fruit, and Meech’s Prolific, an old variety identified in Connecticut in the mid-19th century and named by William W. Meech, author of Quince Culture, has been placed in Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste.

Boyer Nurseries (“Boyer” quince is almost certainly Champion)
405 Boyer Nursery Road, Biglerville, Pennsylvania tel 717.677.8558, www.boyernurseries.com

Hidden Springs Nursery (Meech’s Prolific and Cooke’s Jumbo) 170 Hidden Springs Lane, Cookeville,
Tennessee tel 931.268.2592, www.hiddenspringsnursery.com

Trees of Antiquity (Aromatnaya, Smyrna, and Pineapple) 20 Wellsona Road, Paso Robles, California tel
805.467.9909, www.treesofantiquity.com

Quinces in Syrup

Look for quinces at local orchards and farmers’ markets. Buy ones that are golden if you can, although slightly green ones will improve in flavor as they ripen at room temperature. Ones picked really green never acquire much flavor. Local quinces are almost certain to be superior to the more widely available Pineapple quinces from California, which are hardly worth the bother of cooking. Many quince recipes call for so much sugar — along with flavorings such as cinnamon, clove, vanilla, citrus — that the distinct quince flavor and aroma are obscured. (Usually the quince jelly, jam, and preserves for sale have a disappointing lack of quince flavor; an exception is June Taylor’s quince butter, available at www.junetaylorjams.com, $14 for an 8-ounce jar, plus shipping.)

The following simple recipe for cooking the fruit with minimal sugar yields tender but firm slices in a light syrup, a result halfway between poached and stewed fruit. The initial simmering of the cores and peels in the water extracts more pectin (not a concern with this syrup), color, and flavor. Used as the cooking liquid for the peeled fruit, it jump-starts both the change in color and the development of flavor, permitting a shorter cooking time, so the texture doesn’t get too soft and there’s less risk of caramelization. Many recipes call for soaking the peeled, sliced fruit in acidulated water to prevent discoloration; the amount of lemon is probably too little to identify in the cooked fruit, but merely covering the peeled quarters and not slicing them until closer to cooking is simpler, reduces the exposure to air, and the bit of discoloration doesn’t affect the final product. There’s a danger of adding so much lemon to jams and other forms of preserved fruit that the lemon stands out; it’s best to keep it to a minimum, adding it only if needed to balance the sweetness. The fruit together with the syrup can be eaten straight up (or with vanilla custard as chef Peter Hoffman serves it), or the cooked fruit can be used (without the syrup) in tarts or in pies. The syrup by itself is delicious and gorgeous drizzled over yogurt or ice cream and suggests possibilities for making quince granita, sorbet, or ice cream.

2 1/2 pounds (about 1 kg or 4 medium) quinces

10 cups (2.25 lt) water
1 cup (210 gr) sugar
fresh lemon juice, optional

With a damp cloth, rub any down from the skin of the quinces. Slice off the stem and flower ends and place them in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Peel the fruit with a broad-bladed potato peeler (a Y-peeler) and add the peels to the pot. Set the flat bottom of the fruit on a cutting board and slice the flesh from the core in four pieces, getting as close to the core as you can without going through it. Add the cores to the pot. If any core remains in the pieces of flesh, use a peach pitter or melon bailer to scoop it out and to remove any bruised flesh. Cover the chunks of quince with a damp cloth to reduce discoloration while you simmer the cores and peels.

Pour 10 cups of water into the pot with the cores and peels and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to a very low simmer and cook for about 45 minutes.The waterwill turn a shade somewhere between blush pink and deep burgundy. During the last 10 minutes that the cores and peels simmer, slice the quinces 1 /3 inch (not quite 1 cm) thick and set them aside. Strain out the cores and peels from their cooking liquid and discard them. About 7 to 8 cups of liquid will remain.

Add the sliced fruit and 1 cup of sugar to the pot with the cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer 60 to 90 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is tender and has turned a coral to ruby color, depending on the ripeness and the variety of quince. Taste the fruit toward the end of cooking, and, if the quince are particularly sour, add a little more sugar, or, if the taste is too sweet, squeeze in a tablespoon or so of lemon juice.

Ladle the fruit into sterilized jars and pour the syrup over, so the pieces are fully immersed. Either process the sealed jars for 10 minutes in boiling water for long-term storage or put them in the refrigerator, where they will keep for several weeks. Makes 3 to 4 pints.

Melissa Pasanen
The Art of Eating, Issue 88, Autumn 2011

Midwest Book Review

A highly recommended and unique addition to personal, family, and community library cookbook collections.

The quince is a seriously underestimated and all-to-often underappreciated fruit that, culinarily speaking, is as versatile as the apple, is a staple in the orchards and kitchens of many different countries and cultures around the world. It was first cultivated in American by the early European colonists. A fuzz-covered and aromatic cousin of pears and apples, most of us know the quince primarily as a jam. But as Barbara Ghazarian amply demonstrated in “Simply Quince”, it can be so much more! Comprising seventy ‘kitchen cook friendly’ recipes that range from Quince-Orange Pickles; Quince-Cranberry Sauce; Veal Shanks with Prunes, Apricots, and Quince; and Brandied-Quince Buckle; to Buttery Almond-Quince Phyllo Tarts; Quick Quince Chutney; and White Pizza with Quince, Prosciutto, Asiago Cheese and Chives; Quince-Infused Spirits Grappa and Vodka, “Simply Quince” offers an impressively broad spectrum of quince oriented dishes that will satisfy even the most gourmet of tastes and is a highly recommended and unique addition to personal, family, and community library cookbook collections.

Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA)
October 12th, 2009

Master Gardeners

Monterey Bay Master Gardeners

I made the acquaintance of Barbara Ghazarian and her new cookbook, Simply Quince, last month at a talk she gave at the Live Oak Grange sponsored by the California Rare Fruit Growers (www.crfg.org). It is no exaggeration to say that I was thrilled to attend because most people have no idea what a quince is while I’ve loved the fruit of the quince since I was a child and found everyone’s ignorance both mystifying and a bit, well, lonely. I was lucky to be introduced to quince by my mother, an adventurous cook who owned many old fashioned cookbooks, about the only way to reliably find quince recipes for the last several decades, at least until Barbara’s book came along. Why do you suppose that is? There are two major reasons: technological innovation and the rise of fast food.

Technological innovation Native to central and western Asia and cultivated there for millennia (the original “golden apples of the sun”) and for centuries in Europe, the quince used to be widely grown in the United States, too, despite being hard, tart, astringent, and somewhat difficult and time consuming to process. It was prized, in fact, not just because of its intoxicating aroma and the gorgeous deep red color it acquires with cooking but because it is so extremely high in pectin, a complex carbohydrate and soluble fiber found in the cell walls of all land plants that combines with acid and sugar to form a gel. To illustrate how intrinsic an ingredient was quince pectin to jams and jellies, the term “marmalade,” originally meaning a quince jam, derives from “marmelo,” the Portuguese word for this fruit. Up until a few generations ago, home canners used the pectin in quince to set their jelly. Now, most canners use commercial powdered or liquid pectin (extracted mostly from apples and citrus fruits).

Rise of fast food To paraphrase Barbara Ghazarian, the quince is the quintessential slow food. As I admitted in the last paragraph, much as I love this fruit, converting quince into the luscious, lovely taste sensation of one’s dreams can be a daunting task for the uninitiated. These days, who has the time or inclination to wrestle food into submission when there are plenty of restaurants and food manufacturers who’ve already done it for you? Let me be quite frank: raw quinces are utterly inedible; they will make your mouth pucker like it’s never puckered before. Moreover, quince are coated with an unappealing fuzz, difficult to peel (Barbara recommends a potato peeler), and challenging to cut—don’t even try to cut through the core. But her book comes to the rescue by explaining how to prepare the fruit using the right tools (very sharp knife, peach pitter, etc.) and proper techniques. Most important, she provides plenty of motivation—her delectable recipes: appetizers, salads, side dishes, stews, main courses, condiments, spreads, preserves, and divine desserts. You can trust me on this one because, after her talk, Barbara shared some of her quince delicacies with us, her audience—yum! Yum?

Yes, yum. The aroma and flavor of quince has to be experienced to be believed. No, it does not taste like apple or pear—it tastes like tropical heaven. And here’s the other thing about quince that’s just so amazing. Unlike any other fruit I can think of, apples and pears, for example, both of which dissolve into mush as they cook, quince maintains its shape (all that pectin, remember), becoming more and more succulent as it cooks but still there—not only there but the most entrancing eye candy you can imagine. As you cook it, it is magically transformed; in fact, the longer you cook it, the more beautiful it becomes. You start out with a yellowish, lumpy, furry, rock-hard object with sour, whitish flesh that rapidly browns when exposed to air, yet you wind up with a visually stunning culinary masterpiece that shimmers like the finest ruby. I’d say that warrants tackling a learning curve, but don’t worry.

Simply Quince guarantees that your education will be worthwhile AND fun. Simply Quince also provides some basic information on quince cultivation. The quince tree, Cydonia oblonga, produces a pome fruit like the apple and pear and our native toyon, all members of the rose family. The tree is small (8–12 feet) and self pollinating, perfect for a backyard garden, needs only 200 to 300 chill hours, and blooms a bit later than apple or pear. The fruit are ripe when they turn yellow and fragrant, usually in October in our area. Some common varieties are ‘Champion’, ‘Orange’, ‘Pineapple’, and ‘Smyrna’. Sometimes used as a rootstock for grafted pears, the quince has the property of dwarfing the growth of the pear tree, forcing it to produce earlier with relatively more fruit-bearing branches and hastening the maturity of the fruit. By the way, don’t confuse the fruiting quince with the popular Japanese flowering quince (Chaenomeles species).

There is a down side, unfortunately. Quince trees are susceptible to the same pests and diseases that plague apples and pears and are particularly prone to fire blight, a bacterial disease that only affects plants in the rose family. To help prevent infection, plant in soil with good drainage, prune as little as possible, and avoid high-nitrogen fertilizer. Sadly, I can attest to their vulnerability from personal experience: the pineapple quince baby I planted years back succumbed to fire blight within a year, but I’m tempted to try again after Barbara’s inspirational talk. Just in case you’re tempted, too, buy the book and check out this UC Integrated Pest Management website for information on fire blight and how to cope with it:www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7414.html

Sue Tarjan
Gardening on the Edge Winter 2010 Book Review, Winter 2010

BOOK REVIEW Simply Quince By Barbara Ghazarian

This book’s title, Simply Quince, seems a bit misleading—there really is nothing simple about quince. It has a complex, aromatic flavor, a rich, intense scent, and its origins and history are colorful and important in many ways. The golden apples of the Hesperides in the legend of Hercules were probably quinces.

Quinces were once the dessert of nobility in Europe. And at one time no housewife did without quinces if she could grow or buy them, because they were so essential for preserves, in desserts and more.

For all that, quince is hardly more than a poorly handled oddity in most grocery stores these days. Few consumers even know what to do with them. This book should change that.

I’ve grown quinces for many years, so I know and love the fruit and have a good idea of what can be done with it. Even so, I am seriously impressed with the sheer number of really creative recipes using quince that can be found in this book. Here are a few:

  • Open-Faced Quince Sandwiches with Arugula and Parmesan
  • Quince and Butternut Squash Soup with Curry
  • Heirloom Tomato and Quince Salad
  • Halibut and Quince-stuffed Phyllo with Lemon Buerre Blanc

And so on, through a range of condiments, meat dishes, desserts, beverages both alcoholic and nonalcoholic, and more. Over 70 in all.

My only regret is that the book arrived before my own crop was ready. So I have to wait before I can start using the recipes.

Take heart if quince fruit isn’t sold at a market near you. Perhaps you will be able to grow your own using information from the section on culture, nurseries that carry quince trees, as well as other sources of information in the book.

Simply Quince. Simply delicious!

Lon Rombough
CRFG Fruit Gardener, November & December 2010

Master Gardeners

Learn to use an exotic fruit in ‘Simply Quince

Local connection: The self-proclaimed “Queen of Quince,” Barbara Ghazarian lives in Monterey. Passionate about her cooking, she is also the author of “Simply Armenian: Natural Healthy Ethnic Cooking Made Easy.”

Content: Reputedly the only cookbook devoted entirely to the quince, this collection of 70 recipes shows how to make this heirloom fruit a staple of your culinary repertoire.

The author shows how to take this hard, fuzz-covered, aromatic cousin of pears and apples (grown in orchards south of Fresno) and turn it into mouthwatering jams, preserves and desserts.

There are also plenty of ideas for succulent salads, robust stews, main dishes and savory condiments. In the book’s introduction, Ghazarian shares interesting facts about the quince and its history. There’s also general information on how to select the fruit, where it can be purchased, how to set up a quince-friendly kitchen and how to cultivate your own quince tree.

Recipes include quince salsa, quince and butternut squash soup with curry, grilled chicken and quince Cobb salad with Roquefort, quince-cranberry sauce, turkey chili with quince, and quince-apple-peach compote.

Author quote: “I wrote this book so that your exploration of this mysterious, ancient fruit will be easier than mine, and your results more assured. My recipes are simple, easy to prepare, and reliably delicious. They showcase the fruit’s mild flavor, delicate aroma and exotic look without making it fancy. Some dishes are sweet, others savory; all are scrumptious. All were tested, tweaked, retested, and served to tasters, and the process was repeated to perfection.”

Audience: Adventurous foodies who enjoy venturing into untested culinary waters and like serving their family and friends unusual fare will find this cookbook a sheer delight. You may become so enraptured with what the author calls this “quintessential underdog of fruits” that you’ll wish to join Team Quince and help reestablish the quince in the garden and on the table in the United States.

Robert Walch
The Salinas Californian, December 11, 2009

Simply Quince by Babara Ghazarian

Barbara Ghazarian’s latest cookbook, Simply Quince, features 70 easy recipes that show how to add this aromatic cousin of pears and apples to your family table. Available from September through January, the quince’s versatility, floral fragrance, subtle flavor and dazzling color make it a fruit that will add a new dimension to your holiday cooking.

The recipes Ghazarian presents that utilize the quince range from salads, side dishes, and main courses to spreads, condiments, and a variety of desserts.

For a change of pace for an entrée, you might wish to try Chicken and Quince StewSpicy Bay Scallops and Shrimp with Quince and Raisins or, perhaps, Roast Pork Tenderloin with Quince and Root Vegetables.

If you’d like something a little more exotic, White Pizza with Quince, Prosciutto, Asiago Cheese and Chives, a German Quince Pancake or a Fiery Quince-Tomato Spread might be in order.

This tribute to the quince, which has been cultivated in North America since Colonial times, hopefully will introduce more people to the culinary possibilities the hard, fuzz-covered fruit offers.

Bob Walch

Simply Quince, a cookbook by Barbara Ghazarian

“Some Biblical scholars speculate that quince may have been the true forbidden fruit,” writes cookbook author Barbara Ghazarian, who would love to have this traditional Old World fruit brought back to popularity in U.S. kitchens. “I am passionate about quince.”

What’s a quince?  Simply Quince gives the fruit’s history, its migration from the Old World to the New, and shows traditional and new ways to prepare the fruit.Marmelo in Portuguese, coing in French, quitte in German, ayva in Turkish, andsergevil in Armenian – across the globe, the fruit-bearing quince tree (Cydonia oblonga)is cultivated and prized for its versatility in the kitchen.” (from Simply Quince, introduction)

The raw fruit is astringent and mouth pucking and hardly ever eaten as a fresh fruit. Quince is delicous when poached, baked, put into preserves, or cooked in many other ways.

What I learned from this cookbook: Quince can be put into salads, stews, condiments, compotes and preserves, pies and tarts. Some of the recipes in this cookbook include quince jam and quince apple pie, roast pork tenderloin with quince and root vegetables, lamb-stuffed quince dolmas, and duck breasts with quince-sambal chutney. Let’s not forget carmelized quince upside down cake and quince infused spirits, grappa and vodka!

My experiences with quince: I fell in love with the fruit, quince, as a sweet jelly with its unusual but delicious flavor. I fell in love with the tree when I saw the beautiful coral pink blossoms every spring as I walked my dog past a neighbor’s prolific flowering quince tree. The tree bore lots of fruit in the summer but they were never harvested for cooking. I picked one up about five years ago and planted the seeds. Today I have two small bushes. One of the trees has borne blossoms and two small fruit two seasons now. I hope for increasing blooms and fruit with each new season.

My quince tree however may very be the flowering ornamental quince, prized for its showy coral blooms and not for the fruit. The fruit-bearing quince tree that has edible fruit has white or pink flowers; the tree is best gotten from a nursery. Simply Quince has recommendations for places to buy trees and quince products.

Barbara Ghazarian has created a community of quince lovers, Team Quince, and directs us to her website, http://www.queen-of-quince.com/Simply Aremenian: Naturally Healthy Ethnic Cooking Made Easy. However, be forewarned. I could not access that website address! Ghazarian is also author of Simply Aremenian: Naturally Healthy Ethnic Cooking Made Easy.

Book Dilettante
January 22, 2010

Book Giveaway and Interview with Barbara Ghazarian

Welcome Barbara! Cookbook author Barbara Ghazarian tells us about her new cookbook, Simply Quince, which has recipes for interesting ways to use the fruit in main dishes, desserts, and jams.


1) Tell us why you decided to devote an entire book to quince and quince recipes

The short answer is, because no one had done it in 4000 years! I quickly discovered the truth in the old adage: “If it was easy, someone would have already done it.”

The fruit-bearing quince, cydonia oblonga, is a naturally dwarf pome-fruiting tree that hails from the Caucus Mountain regions of Armenia, Georgia, and Northern Iran. I enjoy romanticizing that my love and fascination with the quince runs through my veins along with my Armenian blood. More likely it’s because my (Armenian) grandmother made deliciously sweet, ruby red quince preserves and jelly every fall with fruit harvested from trees that grew in her yard. I’ve been eating and cooking with quince my whole life. The taste of quince is distinctive and memorable. There is no good substitute. Once you’ve fallen in love with the subtle rosy-guava aroma and flavor of quince, only the real thing satisfies.

Cooking at my grandmother’s elbow as a child, I was fascinated by the color change that happens when you slow cook fresh quince in water with a little sugar and lemon juice. The creamy white pulp transitions to golden, then salmon-pink, and finally with continued cooking, to a rich ruby red. It’s 100% natural cooking magic and unique to the quince. For years, I searched for an answer as to why quince does this. I answer the missive in Simply Quince. I’ll give you a hint. Quince is extremely high in good-for-you antioxidants!

The third reason I wrote an entire book devoted to cooking with quince is that quince is one of the oldest cultivars in the world and no other fruit, including the apple, is as interwoven with the story of human civilization. I outline the migration of quince throughout history in the introductory section of Simply Quince. Often referred to in historical sources as an “apple” or “golden apple”, many Biblical Scholars speculate that the quince, which is rarely eaten raw, was the true forbidden fruit, tempting Eve with its golden tone and alluring aroma. It is most likely the “apple” of most Western myths, including the Golden Apples of Hesperides and the “golden apple of discord” credited with starting the Trojan War.

Rome’s first cookbook author, Apicius, preserved whole quinces in a bath of honey in the first century CE. Since the dawn of civilization, human beings have piggy-backed the quince around the world. Less than a decade after settling in New England, the Puritans brought the quince to Massachusetts. A century later, the pioneers loaded quince seedlings on their wagons and carried the quince west. Since you are having a contest to win a copy of Simply Quince, a great question to ask is Why? Why did mankind cultivate the quince everywhere he went?

2) Could you tell us about your research for the book. What did it involve?

A few years after the initial publication of my first cookbook, Simply Armenian: Naturally Healthy Ethnic Cooking Made Easy, I was casting about for another project. It was fall. Over the years I’d been expanding my understanding of how to cook quince. It bugged me that after multiple millenniums, the fruit’s repertoire didn’t extend much past traditional jams and jellies. My decision to do a cookbook was a leap of faith. I majored in molecular biology in college so it seemed natural to couple scientific research methods with my culinary know-how to figure out how to prepare quince so that its gentle flavor would shine in a wide variety of dishes, both savory and sweet. I guess I believed that I could figure it out.

Once the decision was made, from late August through March, for three consecutive quince seasons, all I did was experiment, create, test, tweak, and retest over 400 recipes to obtain the 70 dishes presented in Simply Quince. It was a bit crazy. I fed neighbors and my daughter’s school friends lots and lots of quince. The good news is that traditional quince lovers will be delighted to find jam, jelly, and cobbler recipes; beginning cooks will find success preparing Candied Quince and Quince Salsa; and professional chefs will expand their repertoire with a wide array of savory-sweet stews, exotic mains, condiments, and spectacular pastries. Simply Quince won the Best Cookbook 2009 Pinnacle Book Achievement Award and was a USA Book News 2009 Best Books finalist in the general cookbook category. High praise since Simply Quince is anything but a general cookbook.

3) What is Team Quince?

On my journey, I’ve met many people, gardeners and orchardist, cooks and foodies, who, without prompting, exclaim, “I love quince.” It’s amazing. “I love quince,” is exclaimed by folks across the globe in just about every language. All seem to agree that it’s time to reestablish the quince to its rightful place on our tables and in our gardens. Team Quince is designed to do that. Quince has been neglected for nearly a century, so there’s lots of work to be done. Simply Quince is only a starting point. Team Quince already boasts some well-known “quince quacks” among its membership; Joseph Postman, Curator of Quince at the USDA-ARS National Germplasm Repository in Covallis, Oregon for one. I’m hoping Team Quince will grow into a vibrant virtual community of quince lovers and provide a way to share personal cooking and growing experiences, report quince news, exchange recipes, search for unidentified varieties, and connect with others who share passion for the quince.

4) What are some of your favorite quince dishes? Did you create them yourself or are they traditional recipes?

To be honest, every one of the dishes in the Simply Quince collection had to make the grade. Quince is relatively unknown today. It’s been off the culinary radar for over a generation. I’d be rich if I got a dime every time a person asks me, “What does quince taste like?” Given this reality, to be included in the book, a dish had to be easy, really yummy, and most importantly, showcase the taste of quince. Misconceptions about the quince abound. One of the most hurtful is that the flavor of quince is strong and pungent. Nothing is further from the truth. When cooked properly, quince has a gentle, mild flavor. That’s one of the reasons why quince was used as the base for the first marmalades. Strong flavors, like vanilla, cardamom, cloves, and orange, overpower quince quickly. Only education will put an end to the multitude of recipes published every autumn that pair quince with flavor combos and quantities such that no one will taste the quince. All the recipes in my book, taste like quince!

It may seem like an oxymoron to write a cookbook on quince and to say that I am a lazy cook, but if my head spins when read a recipe’s directions, I lose interest immediately. Most of my dishes are creative variations on traditional recipes. Savory over sweet wins with me. Given that, my favorite quince dishes include Quince Salsa and Quince-Orange Pickles as starters; Quince-Infused Vinegar adds amazing flavor to any salad; Quince-Apple Sauce and my original Quince and Roasted Cashew Stuffing are delicious sides, my Lamb and Quince Tagine and Turkey Chili with Quince balance sweet with heat to perfection; my Fresh Ginger and Quince Pomegranate Chutney compliments main meat dishes flawlessly, Fiery Quince-Tomato Spread is my favorite preserve, Quince Butter is a close second; Creamy Quince Mascarpone Pie and Caramelized Quince Upside-Down Cake win on my table as dessert selections; and nothing beats the White Pizza with Quince, Prosciutto Pizza or finishes a meal like Quince-Infused Grappa. All wow guests, even first timer’s to quince.

6) Could you tell us about your first cookbook, Simply Armenian?

Simply Armenian won critical acclaim as well and is now in its 3rd printing. I’ve been accused of giving away all the secrets of the delicious Armenian table. A fact I’m proud of. Rather than rely on condiments, sauces, or lots of seasonings, Armenian dishes depend upon the food itself, or the combination of foods, to give fine flavor. The cuisine relies heavily on whole-grain bulgur (cracked wheat), olive oil, lemon juice, mint, parsley, and yogurt. Lots of vegetables extend the dishes, which are eaten with large qualities of bread, especially flatbread. Other than salt and pepper, cayenne and cumin are the spices most often used. Lamb is the preferred meat. While not a vegetarian cookbook, over half the recipes are meat-free and over 50 are vegan. When Armenian Christians fast on holy days, primarily during Great Lent, our diet is meat-free, including dairy. The naturally healthy Armenian table is a poster child for the Mediterranean Diet. I’m slightly overweight, not because I eat poorly, but because I have portion control issues. It’s all those little dishes!

7. Are there any plans for future books?

No future books are on the roster at the moment. A cookbook devoted to bulgur may be in my future.

8) Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for your interest in my work and sharing news about Simply Quince. Foodies are constantly searching for new ingredients. If we all pitch in and spread the word, it would be great to see the heirloom quince set a new trend in food. Got quince?

9) How can readers find you on the web?

Simultaneous to the posting of this interview on your blog, (my web site) will launch at Queen of Quince.  The title, “Queen of Quince,” is meant to be a little campy. Remember, most people don’t know what a quince is. Please visit the web site. Join Team Quince. I’d love to meet and work with you. Welcome to the world of quince,


Thanks for the informative and interesting interview, Barbara!  Check out her website at http://queen-of-quince.com/ (See my review of Simply Quince.)

GIVEAWAY OFFER of two copies, U.S. only: Publishing Works, Inc. is giving away two copies of the cookbook. To enter to win, leave a comment with your email address at the end of this post, so we can contact you. Winners will be notified by email and asked to supply their mailing address for Publishing Works, Inc. to send the books. No. P.O. boxes, please. For an extra chance to win, become a follower of Book Dilettante.

The contest will run through Feb. 28.

Book Dilettante
February 1, 2010

Demystifying The Quince

Until recently, I had never seen a fresh quince. I knew quince paste, or membrillo, from Spanish cheese plates. I knew that Korean friends boiled down quince juice into a tea.

However, since moving to Oregon I’ve found quinces at the local farmers market and even growing on trees in my neighborhood. In fact, it turns out that the most diverse quince grove in North America, if not the world, thrives at a U.S. Department of Agriculture gene bank just down the road.

Still, close proximity to quinces doesn’t necessarily give you the nerve to try the rock-hard, acerbic fruit. But last spring, I had my quince revelation. Just one bite of the tangy, poached morsel on a charcuterie plate had me counting the days until this fall’s season.

In late September, I huddled beside our market director, staking my claim on her orchard’s first-to-ripen crop. She even spikes her apple cider with quince.

I began more humbly, slipping the peeled fruit into a pie. With their beguiling fragrance and subtle flavor, quinces naturally partner with their more universally beloved pome sisters, apple and pear.

A quince is a fruit of contradictions. It’s generally too astringent to eat raw, yet it smells so guava-sweet. Its white, dry, hard flesh blushes and softens, without turning mushy, when cooked. It has tough, waxy skin that bruises more easily than you’d think.

Revered since antiquity, quinces are still treasured all over the globe. With their high pectin content, quinces lend themselves to jellies, pastes and preserves. The word marmalade, after all, derives from the Portuguese name for quince.

In the United States, quinces were common in the garden and in the kitchen from colonial days through the 19th century, until the advent of commercial gelatin and pectin. Americans instead turned to sweeter, eat-out-of-hand fruits.

Now, underground enthusiasts are reviving the nostalgic fruit, hoping quince can resurge just like once-forgotten rhubarb. A motley tribe recently gathered here in Corvallis for an “unappreciated fruits” event. Home orchardists and horticulturalists, members of Slow Food USA’s endangered foods board, and Lebanese and Iranian natives longing for quince, their grandmother’s stewing staple, rounded out the crowd.

One key question divided the devotees: Can a quince be eaten raw? Yes, evidently — depending on the variety. That weekend, we walked among the hundred or so clones at the USDA orchard, sampling some quite palatable ones from their native Caucasus region. They tasted juicy and crisp, with notes of raspberry and star fruit. No chalkiness. On hand was famed fruit sleuth and food writer David Karp, who advocates biting right into the sometimes elusive, sweeter-fleshed quince. He hopes an apple-like variety brought here from Peru will soon be tested and rolled out for commercial cultivation.

Many fans agree with cookbook author Barbara Ghazarian that the quince is “the quintessential slow food,” whose magic is only revealed through cooking. She just published a culinary tome devoted to the forbidden fruit (botanists believe the quince, not an apple, was Eve’s true Garden of Eden temptation). Drawing on the recipes of her Armenian ancestors, Ghazarian includes savory preparations, such as lamb-stuffed quince dolmas and a sweet-tart quince and parsnip stew.

She, like many chefs, recommends poaching quinces over a low flame for several hours. Try simmering slices of them in a sweetened white wine syrup (think Riesling), with a touch of vanilla bean and citrus zest. Reusing the poaching liquid for subsequent batches only intensifies the sections’ ruby color. Cooking the quince coaxes out the anticarcinogen anthocyanins, those purple pigments also found in berries. These jewels then caramelize when baked into a tart.

By now you’re thinking, great, you live in the Mediterranean-like Willamette Valley, where quinces flourish. Where can I buy them? Try upscale grocers and ethnic markets, which ship them in from California. The San Joaquin Valley grows most of the country’s quinces, primarily the most common Pineapple variety, on a scant couple of hundred acres. That’s all we demand.

But first, search for ones from your local apple or pear vendor. They’re readily available at farmers markets in the East. Unfortunately, quinces fall prey to fire blight in humid parts of the country. More ubiquitous are flowering quince shrubs, a different genus from the fruit-bearing Cydonia oblonga. They do, however, produce small pomes that can be substituted in some recipes.

With a season that runs through December, quinces make an aromatic holiday centerpiece. How can you tell they’re ripe? Rubbing off their fuzz should reveal a bright, yellow peel. Better yet, just follow your nose. A quince’s perfume should fill a room.

Laura McCandlish
NPR (National Public Radio), November 10, 2009

Holman Ranch culinary classes offer a taste of the Central Coast

Armenian ways with small plates

Thurs May 3: Author Barbara Ghazarian

The doyenne of Armenian cooking will put Holman Ranch’s extra-virgin olive oil and young, fresh-picked grape leaves to good use in demonstrating mezze, or traditional small dishes. The centerpiece will be stuffed grape leaves, which we know as dolmas or dolmades. The basic ingredients are onion, rice, olive oil and grape leaves; though these delectable small bites from the Mediterranean often include meat in the stuffing, these are a vegan version called yalanchi in Armenian (literally “fake,” because it does not contain meat).

The guru: There’s no mistaking Barbara Ghazarian’s heritage; her cookbook, “Simply Armenian: Naturally Healthy Ethnic Cooking Made Easy,” is now in its fourth printing. Since publishing its follow-up, “Simply Quince,” she has been crowned the Queen of Quince. She credits her degree in molecular biology from Wellesley College for her facility in the kitchen. In addition to teaching, writing and, well, cooking, she has racked up appearances at farmers’ markets, bookstores and lecture halls across the country and TV and radio credits including Real Simple for PBS. She divides her time between Monterey and Rhode Island.

The takeaway: Learn to give the dolmas their fresh, tangy flavor with fresh-squeezed lemon juice and mint. Roll the stuffing as tightly as possible into the grape leaves and pack them tightly in the pot to ensure firm dolmas after cooking and put an inverted dinner plate on top keep them in place.

Christine Delsol
San Francisco Chronicle, February 21st, 2012

The Memory-Invoking Power of Quince

Click here to read this article on www.boiseweekly.com.

Guy Hand
Boise Weekly, December 7th, 2011

Quince, mulberry, feijoa in the spotlight

Click here to read this article on sfgate.com.

Laramie Treviño
San Francisco Chronicle, January 9th, 2011