We love using lemon juice in cooking & baking, the sharp acidic taste, gives everything from pesto, hommous, nachos, soups, curries & cake an amazing fresh flavour hit. We’re less keen about the distance lemons have to travel to get to us & even lovingly tended to in a glasshouse we’re never going to get much of a crop in our darker, cooler climes. SO you can imagine how excited we were to discover a botanical growing right under our noses that makes an incredible lemon juice alternative, without a lemon in sight!
Introducing the Japanese Quince (Chaenomeles japonica). This hardy shrub, native to Japan, has become really popular in gardens & landscaping schemes as a tough, colourful ornamental with its Spring flowering blooms. The pollen & nectar rich flowers are fantastic for early emerging pollinators & come in a range of colours. Its thorny stems make it great cover for nesting birds too.
Growing Japanese Quince
Japanese Quince grows in most soils, sun or shade & can be espaliered across walls, trimmed to form hedges or left as a free standing shrub. Want to see if it’s hiding in your garden!? The team at Gardeners World have a plant profile on Japanese Quince here, including some more growing tips. If you haven’t got any growing in your garden & want variety that will fruit prolifically, Forest Gardening Guru, Martin Crawford recommends ‘Crimson & Gold’.
In the fruit be the juice!
Japanese Quince produce a green/yellow apple-like fruit in the Autumn which can be harvested & transformed into a really fantastic lemon juice alternative. Not only that but it turns out they can contain more Vitamin C than a lemon!! 45–109 mg of Vit C per 100ml of Japanese quince juice compared with 53mg for a lemon. Wait until the fruit has turned a golden yellow & there have been a few frosts to soften them. Late November & early December is when ours were ready for picking. Read on for our guide on how to extract & preserve the juice.
What to gather..
- Japanese Quince (Chaenomeles japonica) fruit
- Ice cube tray
- Chopping board & knife
What to do..
- Wash, then cut the fruit into quarters & remove the seeds
- Place the fruit in a blender & blend until a fine pulp.
- Empty pulp into a sieve over a jug & using a press to extract as much of the juice as possible.
- Pour the juice into ice-cube trays & freeze straight away to preserve in small batches. The Vitamin C contained deteriorates quickly & we find freezing is the best way of preserving it as much as possible.
- When you need some, grab an ice cube, allow to defrost (it doesn’t take long!) & add to your dish.
Want to make more with your Japanese Quince, try out our tried & tested jelly recipe here. For some fascinating research into the different ways Japanese Quince can be processed & enjoyed as an ingredient, have a peruse of this paper. Has inspired us to keep experimenting with Japanese Quince in the Kitchen here, so watch this space!