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A bit off the top

It has been a beautiful day here this Easter Friday so I took the opportunity to get out my secateurs and do a little maintenance pruning on the quince tree.

Quinces seem to have a naturally untidy habit of growth so there is often some general pruning to do. Like most fruit trees (with the exception of stone fruits such as plums and cherries), this is best done in the dormant season so I was just in time as the leaf buds were nearly ready to burst.

Pruning has a bit of mystique around it but is really not that difficult when you know why you are doing it. In this case I was trying to keep the tree healthy and fruiting well by cutting out dead wood, crossing growths and weak shoots growing inside the crown (general good husbandry) and then ‘tipping back’ (lightly pruning) some of the longer growths. As quince fruits mainly on the ends of the growth made the previous year and less on side spurs, this shortening of branches will probably reduce the number of fruits a little but this will hopefully mean that the remaining fruit will be bigger. I’m also hoping (vainly, no doubt!) that shortening branch tips will help keep the tree more compact: it is currently 6 metres tall and still growing lustily!

A few years ago I noticed that the bark on the trunk was starting to peel low down. This worried me as I had lost some plants to honey fungus and this can be an early sign. However several years on the tree is obviously still happy and the bark has now peeled well up into the crown. Some trees shed some bark naturally and although I couldn’t find any references to quinces being one of these it seems that perhaps they can be.

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Taking stock

Wow, it has been over five months since my last blog.  Where did the time go?!

Of course the first thing that happened after I last posted was that fruit availability, which had been ramping up steadily, suddenly exploded: all of the quinces that are the mainstay of my business started to become ready at once.  I have found that the best time to pick my own tree is a two (three at-a-push) week period in late September/early October, although outside the sheltered microclimate of my London garden the fruit ripens a couple of weeks later.  Quince trees can be tremendously productive and my own, which is the variety ‘Meeches Prolific’, has been known to give a harvest of 150 kg of fruit – not for nothing is it called prolific!  Without really trying too hard I was offered most of the fruit from another three trees and a few bags more besides, so for a good month I and a helper were occupied with picking, cleaning, preparing, cooking, pureeing and freezing the fruit.

During this time I was also lucky enough to also bring in a lot of cooking apples and, in November, a healthy quantity of medlars, the last fruit of the season.  It had become apparent well before then that one freezer would not be enough!

[Picture: sugar and spice being mixed for a batch of spiced apple fruit cheese]

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