Many visitors are surprised to see the quince fruit on display to accompany the Quince Preserve for sale at The Cliffs Interpretation Centre during this time of the year. Many are unfamiliar with the fruit and often, the first question when they encounter the odd-shaped hairy fruit is the simple query…What is quince?
The Quince Tree (Sfarġel)was introduced in the Maltese Islands and became naturalised, however it is rare. The fruit resembles a pear or apple in shape, but attains a deep yellow colour when mature. The fruit is not eaten raw since it is very bitter and astringent, however it has a high concentration of pectin, a naturally occurring substance that allows jams to set. Because of the high concentration, pectin helps jams to thicken, so less sugars are used.
The world marmalade is said to originate from the Portugese word ‘marmelo’, which used to refer to the quince fruit. The quince is also said to contain medicinal properties and one Maltese tradition includes the dissolution of a teaspoon of the quince jam in boiling water for the relief of intestinal discomfort.
At The Centre, Quince chutney is occasionally prepared from quince pickled from down the Cliffs, a tradition that has been revived after three generations. When in season, this chutney is served as an accompaniment to platters, to make visitors aware of the fruit.