What’s in season: With its rough, blocky shape, quince might look more like a Bizarro World-type pear than the picturesque fruit you might see in a Harry & David catalog. Taste it raw, and you’re likely to wonder how such a fruit — with its dry, wooden texture and tart, astringent flavor — was considered a symbol of love in antiquity. But show this winter favorite a little patience — and a lot of long, slow cooking — and you’ll find it’s transformed into something sweet and silky. Quince, normally in season from fall through the winter months, has been prized in Asian and Mediterranean countries for over 4,000 years. A yellow-skinned pome fruit related to apples and pears, you can find varieties such as fragrant Smyrna and Pineapple, a tender-tasting variety introduced by Luther Burbank in 1899.
What to cook: In an age when many of us like our fruit ready to eat (and pretty to boot), quince can be challenging. This is a fruit that requires a lot of cooking time — baking or poaching are common, as is stewing — to bring out its best qualities, which include notes of pineapple and vanilla. Slowly simmer the fruit in simple syrup, candying the quince to use as a topping for ice cream or yogurt. Peel and slice quince, baking or poaching the fruit before adding to a bread pudding, or tucking into crepes or clafoutis. With its high pectin content, quince is a perfect choice for winter jams or jellies. And for a dramatic dessert, roast the fruit and maybe toss with apples before baking into a pie.
What’s on the horizon: Turn into a weed eater. Dandelion greens, with their assertive, somewhat bitter notes, are showing up now and will be in season at markets through early spring (and on your lawn probably much longer).