Quince, due to its astringency, is often used as a syrup prepared from the fruit and may be used as an addition to drinks in sickness involving loose stools. The seeds may be used medicinally for the sake of the mucilage they yield. When soaked in water they swell up and form a mucilaginous mass. This mucilage is analogous to, and has the same properties as, that which is formed from the seeds of the flax or linseed.
Native of Persia and Anatolia. Quince are many-branched shrubs, or small trees, with large, solitary, white or pink flowers, like those of a pear or apple.
The Quince as we know it in this country is a different fruit to that of Western Asia and tropical countries, where the fruit becomes softer and more juicy. In colder climates, the fruit is of a rich golden colour when ripe and has a strong fragrance. The rind is rough and woolly and the flesh harsh and unpalatable, with an astringent, acidulous taste. In hotter countries, the woolly rind disappears and the fruit can be eaten raw. This is the case not only in Eastern countries, where it is much prized, but also in those parts of tropical America to which the tree has been introduced from Europe. This explains the fact that it figured so prominently in classical legends. It was very widely cultivated in the East and especially in Palestine, and many commentators consider that the Tappuach of Scripture, always translated Apple, was the Quince. It is also supposed to be the fruit alluded to in the Canticles, ‘I sat down under his shadow with great delight and his fruit was sweet to my taste’; and in Proverbs, ‘A word fitly spoken is like Apples of gold in pictures of silver.’
It was believed, a long time ago, that the fruit warded off the influence of the evil eye. Other legends connect it with ancient Greek mythology. By the Greeks and Romans, the Quince was held sacred to Venus, who is often depicted with a Quince in her right hand, the gift she received from Paris. The fruit, being dedicated to Venus, was regarded as the symbol of Love and Happiness, and Plutarch mentions the bridal custom of a Quince being shared by a married pair. Quinces sent as presents, or shared, were tokens of love.
The Quince will thrive almost anywhere, but is best adapted to a damp spot, in a rich, high and somewhat moist soil. Propagation is generally by cuttings or layers.
The chemical constituents include fixed oil and protein, together with small proportions of amygdalin and emulsion. The chief constituent of the seed is about 10 per centmucilage, contained in the seed-coat. The pulp of the fruit contains 3 to 3.5 per cent of malic acid.
The seeds have soothing and demulcent properties and are used internally. They are prepared in a decoction by boiling 2 drachms of Quince seed in a pint of water in a tightly-covered pan for 10 minutes and straining off. Large quantities of the decoction may be drunk in dysentery, diarrhea and gonorrhea and it is used in thrush and irritable conditions of the mucous membrane. The decoction also forms a useful adjunct to boric-acid eye-lotions. It is also used as an adjunct to skin lotions and creams.