Cathay Quince (Chaenomeles cathayensis)

Cathay quince is similar to the more commonly known “flowering quinces” (C. sinensis, C. japonica and hybrids). However, it differs in a number of morphological features. Compared to its cousin species and hybrids it is a little less cold hardy (though it does perfectly fine in my zone 8 area), and also it has the most wicked thorns out of the group. In fact I almost got stuck in one of the mother bushes when trying to grab a fruit years ago. That said, the fruit produced by this species are very large in comparison to other flowering quinces and its thorny branches can make it a useful addition to mixed species hedgerows if you desire them to be uncrossable by people or larger animals.

Although this is not my first harvest of Cathay quince, it is the first time I’ve been able to harvest this species from my own garden.

Like true quince (Cydonia oblonga), the fruit is hard when raw, but unlike true quince it will soften very quickly when simmered with just a little water for 20-30 minutes (true quince requires a more lengthy cooking time to fully soften). The flavor is sharp and very comparable to lemon, and once cooked and run through a food mill to separate the pulp from the skin/core/seeds the texture is like apple sauce. This sauce can then be used for whatever you want to add lemon flavor to or simply sweetened to make a preserve.

(Note: the only reason I removed the seeds before cooking the examples pictured here is that I was saving the seeds, but these could have otherwise just all been cooked together and strained apart later.)

Cathay quinces require cross pollination for fruit set and can be pollinated by other flowering quinces of either their own species or of their cousin species. The fruit pictured in this post were developed from pollination by C. speciosa 'Toyo Nishiki*, a multi-colored flower selection of Chinese flowering quince. Although Japanese flowering quinces (C. japonica) are also compatible for pollination they tend to bloom a little later than C. catheyensis and C. speciosa making them less reliable as pollinizers for Cathay quince.


I just made a cake with some of the cooked Cathay quince and it turned out pretty good. (This would have worked with any of the more commonly available flowering quince varieties as well)

The approximate recipe was:
Dry ingredients
1 cup flour (I used a blend of wheat and oat)
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 handfull of brown sugar
and a few dashes of pumkin pie spice

Wet ingredients
6 large eggs (I used duck eggs)
1 large Cathay quince worth of cooked pulp
1 splash of vanilla extract
1 splash of milk (because the wet mix needed to be a bit runnier)

I mixed all together and baked at 375F for about 25 minutes.

The result was very moist and dense with a pleasantly tangy flavor. I would consider this a good use for any flowering quince fruit and worth repeating!