If you are a longer term reader of She Who Bakes, you’ll remember this little rant about a certain yellow fruit. The rage persisted within me long after posting about it, and I never did get any very helpful responses. It turns out my Aunt has a fruiting Quince tree in her garden (likely a Japanese one), but I didn’t discover this until after I had already taken action.
As I have probably noted previously, I do like to garden. I wouln’t say I’m completely green fingered (though, I am wearing OPI ‘Gargantuan Green Grape’ today’…), but I can keep things alive, get them to flower etc. I’m actually pretty good with roses. But I digress. This spring, being the first spring in my new house, I was keen to start planning my new outdoor living space. I live in a fairly normal Portsmouth house- a victorian terrace 2 bed with a yard out the back. My back garden is concreted over, almost in its entirety, which was a little dismaying, but actually, considering how much I am out of the house with work, it’s ideal for a low maintenance set up, and whilst it isn’t vast (also a blessing, really), there’s room for most things I want to do in the short-medium term. It also has a very handsome shed.
My dream for the garden was a leafy idyll, a respite from my busy commuter lifestyle. I wanted somewhere to relax with a glass of wine in the last of the summer evening sun, private and not too structured, harking back to my garden and the wooded village in my previous Kentish home. And, as an avid preserve maker and baker, I wanted a productive garden- Tomatoes and chillies for chutneys, any other veg to supplement mine and my pets’ meals, berries and fruits for jams, conserves, jellies and desserts, and herbs for all of the above.
The Quince drama made me certain I wanted to grow my own Quinces; that was an imperative. However, my garden as previously mentioned is small, and fruit trees are generally large. I began to investigate cordons, and asked a keen gardener acquaintance of mine, Tony, for advice. He told me about grafting (a lot of commercial fruit trees are actually cuttings from one ideal tree grafted onto, wait for it, Quince rootstock. WHAT.) and advised dwarfing varieties. In my mind, a dwarfing fruit tree would be, say, half the size of normal, so still 3 metres instead of 6- great for fruit picking, not so great for my postage stamp garden, particularly if I wanted more than one. Oh, what I did not know then!
Tony told me about a very good fruit tree producer in my county, Blackmoor. A little rummage (I say little…) on their website introduced me to their Patio Collection– dwarfing fruit trees that grow very happily in large planters or in the ground, and when full grown won’t exceed 1-2 metres in height. This was EXACTLY what I had been looking for. And, lo and behold, they offered a dwarf Quince.
A short drive up past Liss on the same chilly february day of ordering (I could have had it delivered, but I’m impatient), and I collected my beautiful new tree. He was dubbed Quincey, MD.
It’s now June, and the tree is disgustingly healthy- a testament to the quality provided by Blackmoor. It’s doubled in size, put on leaf and blossom. It will likely fruit this year, and come winter I will be making preserves from them. That’s all I wanted. And, if we apply the maths, It would have cost me in excess of £5 to buy TWO quince fruit last autumn. For £25 plus compost and container (approx £32 all in) I have a beautiful tree, and I will have plenty of fruit to satisfy my curiosity. I only need 12-13 fruit for the tree to have paid for itself, which could theoretically happen this year, looking at the number of buds.
I’m still annoyed about this. I wouldn’t be if I was talking about a Kiwi (though I have a Kiwi tree…) or a Dragon Fruit (sadly, I don’t grow these), or something else exotic that has to be doused in chemicals and flown halfway around the world for us to eat it, or grown in a hot house at great expense. I am talking about a fruit that not only grows well in the British climate, I’m talking about a fruit that has been grown in England since 1275 AD, a fruit that has grown successfully as far north as Scotland, and is a Eurasian native species. When in season (late autumn), Quince should be in greengrocers and supermarkets, yes, I concede, perhaps only the more specialist ones. I should not be having to shop online for them, nor should they be imported, nor should I have to tell a greengrocer what a Quince is.
We import vast (and I do mean vast) quantities of fruit as a nation that we are quite capable of growing ourselves at likely less expense to the consumer, of greater quality than most imported stock, and with a much reduced impact on pollution and food miles. Every year, tonnes upon tonnes of British fruit rots beneath forgotten trees of old orchards- on roundabouts and sidings. One of best jams I ever made was of little wild plums picked from the side of the approach to the M25 motorway. More and more productive ground is lost, and more and more productive trees are destroyed for space, but also because people can’t be bothered with them.
I’ll do a post another day about ‘scrumping’, and the wealth no doubt available in your home area, but please; just think about how wasteful we are. I’m all for convenience, but please, please look at your labels. Support British produce, buy local and in season in you can. And why not think about looking for fruit in your area, or, even better, planting a fruit tree? It’s good for the environment, good for your well being, good for your tastebuds (you can’t beat homegrown), and, possibly most importantly, good for your pocket.
And for God’s sake, someone agree with me on this Quince issue?