Henry and I made what’s becoming an annual visit to the USDA Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis about a week ago. (You can see/read about last year’s visit here.) Our neighbor Joseph Postman, a plant pathologist, works there and offered to tour us around. I was itching to harvest some quince, but Henry wanted to check out some of the more obscure fruits in the collection first.
We started with the medlars (above). You can read the Wikipedia article on medlars, but basically they’re small, brown, roundish things, and after “bletting” (rotting) for a few months, they’ll soften, and the insides taste a little like applesauce. David Lebovitz has a recipe for medlar jelly, but I passed them up this year.
We moved on to admire these giant hawthorne fruits (above right) that came from China. I gnawed on one. It tasted a little tart and pithy. They’re so pretty that I considered trying them out in some kind of jam, but I wasn’t too impressed by the flavor, so they didn’t come home with me.
The farm has a row of seedling paw paws as well. Paw paws are native to the East Coast. Here in Western Oregon, the trees will grow and thrive, but often the fruit don’t get enough heat in the summer to fully ripen and develop sugars to their full potential.
We sampled a few paw paws. They have an inedible skin (kinda like a mango) and huge, black seeds. The soft flesh has a flavor reminiscent of bananas.
The big vineyard of hardy kiwis was dripping with ripe and overripe fruit of all shapes and colors.
Some of them were huge like this one grown from Chinese seed.
There was one vine of Actinidia macrosperma, a mostly inedible kiwi used in Chinese medicine and known for being high in antioxidants.
The quince orchard was such a pretty scene. Though it’s not quite the world collection, the facility houses dozens of different varieties, including a few newly named varieties of quince grown from seed at the farm in Corvallis.
We started out by cruising down the aisles, sampling pieces of raw quince. As a quince novice, I was under the impression that one could never just bite into an uncooked, unsweetened quince, but Joseph picked out a few of his favorite less-astringent varieties to try, and I was pleasantly surprised.
Some of the quince we tried were definitely too astringent to consume right off the tree, but there were others that were sort of sweet and bland. My favorite by far was ‘Kuganskya’, a variety that Joseph (above) bought from One Green World nursery. ‘Kuganskya’ is sweet but tart and flavorful as well. You can get one for yourself here.
I went through the quince orchard and picked a few fruits off almost every tree. Some were round, some were pear-shaped, some tiny, and some softball-sized or larger. All of them were ripe to overripe and covered with a thin layer of fuzz that could easily be wiped off. They smelled incredible.
I brought home a bag of hardy kiwis and a whole lot of quince, at least twice as many as last year. I may have gotten a little carried away. I have some ideas for how to use everything up, but if you want to share your favorite quince recipe, I’m all ears.
If you’ve got your own quince, you should check out Apt. 2B Baking Co. and David Lebovitz for both classic and innovative quince-themed recipes. I also hope to share a couple quince recipes here in the near future.
Education is a primary part of the facility’s mission, so the National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis opens up the the public at least once a year for an open house. The staff are also available to lead prearranged group tours that can be scheduled by calling the front office at 541-738-4200. If you’re in the area, you should come check it out.