Quince is one of the oldest fruits in recorded history. For more than 4,000 years, quince trees have grown across the Mediterranean and parts of Asia. As people moved around the world, they took the popular fruit with them, and quince trees can now be found in most parts of the world. Quince fruit should be harvested when ripe for maximum flavour.
Check the fruit on the quince tree during late fall. Quince fruit have a long harvesting period, and can be removed from the tree through midwinter in many parts of the world. Pick up any fruit that has fallen on the ground.
Pick quince from the tree when it turns from a bright green to a rich, buttery yellow colour. Some variety of quince will turn orange as they ripen, but a ripe quince be an even colour all around.
Smell the fruit for signs of ripeness. Ripe quince fruit will smell sweet, like a combination of pineapple, guava and Bartlett pear, according to David Karp, a speciality fruit buyer for Dean & De Luca, on the public radio program "The Splendid Table." If the fruit has no scent, it is not ripe and should be left on the tree for a few more days.
Hold the fruit in one hand, and snip the stem as close to the fruit as possible with a sharp pair of pruning shears. Place the fruit gently in a basket to prevent bruising as you harvest the remainder of the tree.
Place three or four quince fruit in a small plastic container and store in a cool, dark place. Quince will continue to ripen during storage, and will remain fresh for three or four weeks if stored away from moisture and direct sunlight.
Quince fruit range in size from large cherries to small apples depending on the species, and may have either smooth or bumpy skin. They can be bitter if eaten fresh, and are most often cooked into pies or made into jams and jellies.