Once exchanged as a symbol of affection and commitment between lovers, quinces have maintained their aura of mystery and allure.Quinces look like yellow-skinned, fattened pears-but don’t think of eating one raw! Although a sweet variety is available, most quinces have very dry and bitter-tasting flesh. Once cooked, however, you’ll taste wonderful undertones of rose, apple and sometimes pineapple, depending on the variety. Due to the large amount of natural pectin in the fruit, quinces are ideal for making jam, jellies and compotes.

How to buy

Quinces are seasonal. Look for them in supermarkets from October to March. Choose ones that feel heavy, firm and are fragrant. Avoid ones with bruises and tiny holes (an indication of worms). Choose large smooth fruit, which are easier to peel. Bypass hard, green quinces-they aren’t ripe. And handle gently, as they bruise easily.

How to store

Wrap ripe quinces in paper towels and refrigerate for two to three weeks. Once cooked, they can be frozen for months. If quinces are not ripe, leave at room temperature for a few days to ripen, then wrap and refrigerate.

How to prepare

Treat a quince similar to an apple: peel and core, then slice into wedges or chunks. Quinces usually take twice as long as apples to cook and turn a beautiful rose or gold colour, depending on variety.

Use quinces to make jams and jellies. They’re great in compotes or added to your favourite recipe for stewed fruit. When making applesauce, throw a few in (just remember they need more cooking time) or slice and add to stews or curries for extra flavour.