177. Origin and Races

The quince is an ancient fruit that has been changed in size and quality less than any one of our orchard fruits by modern selection, crossing, and culture. Regel says that the quince has been widely planted as far north as Tashkend and Koran in Asia, and De Candolle in his "Origin of Cultivated Plants" says it is found " wild in the woods in the north of Persia," which indicates its native origin in the far East. But it is also found wild in the Crimea and in the north of Greece. The varieties we grow are from west Europe, Japan, and China. It is more than probable that the varieties from as far north as Tashkend in Asia would extend its culture considerably to the north in the prairie States. Ten years ago it was difficult, if not impossible, to investigate, select, or send out seeds, scions, or trees from Bokhara, Tashkend, or other fruit-growing sections of north central Asia. But the recent control of this region by the Russian government and the extension of railroads across the great north plain to the west boundary of China, makes such work now possible, hence the historic notes given in these sections on hardy orchard fruits and their origin.

Downing says: "The quince is a well-known hardy, deciduous tree of small size, crooked branches, and spreading bushy head." This is true as to its being common and hardy in New York and westward to Michigan. But in the great prairie region west of the lakes, few of our young people ever saw a quince-tree and most of them never saw or tasted the fruit, unless obtained from a grocery, where it is sometimes found for sale as shipped in as are the citrus fruits. Commercially, the fruit is mainly grown east of the lakes, in some of the southeast States, and in Utah.

178. Propagation and Management

The quince is easily propagated by cuttings of the new wood planted in the fall (58. Fall-planting of Cuttings) and also from cuttings of the surface-roots (50. Propagation by Root-cuttings). It is also propagated by mound-layering (51. Rooting Sprouts by Mounding), and by root-grafting and budding of best varieties on the free-growing Angers quince. It is also often propagated by root-grafting on apple-roots. In this case the grafts are set down to the top bud of the scion to favor rooting above the point of union. The pruning of the quince is peculiar (151. Pruning the Quince) and should be mainly in the way of thinning out the inner branches. If the growth is shortened the best bearing wood is taken away.

It may be said that the fruit of the quince will never have the widespread consumption and uses of such orchard fruits as the apple, plum, cherry, peach, and orange. Its commercial status has not changed materially in modern times. It is not and never can be a dessert fruit, but it has been esteemed for the making of sweet preserves and marmalade for centuries. In time the marmalade may become commercial. If so, the growing of the quince will be more general in sections adapted to its culture.