History of Quince

History of Quince
Although it has been grown for over 4000 years, the origins of quince are somewhat unclear. Hardy to zone five, it seemed to have originated in the Caucasus and Asia Minor, mainly in Turkey and Iran. It still grows wild in Turkey.

The plant was known during Biblical times. It was grown in Palestine by the first millennium B.C. Apparently, the apples that were mentioned in the Songs of Solomon are in fact quince. Some plant historians believe that the apple growing in the Garden of Eden was actually a quince. In ancient times, this was cultivated in the land of Canaan and the Near East.

The fruit showed up in the early Mediterranean diet among the Phoenicians and Carthaginians. One of the first places to cultivate quince was Mesopotamia where the fruits were part of the diet and were also used as air fresheners. It then spread to the Mediterranean. It was cultivated on Crete during Pliny’s time in the first century A.D. After being introduced to the area, quince naturalized in the Mediterranean region where it can still be found today.

During ancient times, the quince was most popular among the ancient Greeks and Romans. The former dedicated this to the goddess of love, Aphrodite. The Romans referred to her as Venus. She was the goddess of not only love but fertility and beauty. In this case, the concept of love was expanded to include the “affection that sustains social life.”

Quince in Ancient Greece

The ancient Greeks referred to quince as Cydonian apples. Later, Linnaeus chose Cydonia as the genus name for the plant. In Cydonia, the Greeks developed superior quince varieties. Among the Greeks and Romans, quince trees appeared in wedding paintings because these were considered a fertility symbol. One of the early Greek rulers, Solon, recommended the use of quince in the marriage ceremony.

It is also possible that the Greeks referred to quince as golden apples. According to legend, Paris presented golden apples to Aphrodite. In fact, historians have identified the golden apples of the Hesperides, which appeared on the high reliefs of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia are quince.

The tree of golden apples was given by Mother Earth or Gaia to the goddess Hera on her marriage to Zeus, chief of the Greek gods. According to Greek mythology, the tree in question grew in the garden of the Hesperides, located on the slopes of Mt. Atlas. The tree was guarded by the daughters of Hesperus, the goddess of the evening star. In one legend, Hercules was able to get the Titan Atlas’s aid in getting the golden apples by offering to hold up the heavens in his place.

Quince in Roman History

According to Pliny the Elder, the Romans grew at least three types of quince varieties. Some of these grew wild in the hedgerows. In some cases, the fruits were so heavy and large that the branches drooped to the ground. The Roman name for quince means ‘honey apple’ in reference to the typical method of preserving the fruit in honey.

For the Romans, quince represented love. Among the ancient Romans, the act of giving a quince fruit to a loved one was an expression of a commitment.

In ancient Rome, there was a stature of Hercules showing him holding three quinces in his hand. According to one fable, he stole the golden apples from the garden in Hesperides.

Columella wrote that quinces were a source of health as well as pleasure. They used the flowers for perfumes.

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