Quince, a tart Asian cousin to apples and pears, is a fruit almost like Michelangelo's women — knobby, with large, nearly muscular curves and sloping, feminine hills that cast interesting shadows across its gravid belly. A natural web of knitted cellulose gives quince its shape as well as its inedibility. At least while it's raw, it is punishingly astringent and unpleasantly chewy, yielding nothing but a bitter pucker and confused customers. Quince's rewards come only with time and heat.

Custom and culture make Californians (and really most Americans) fond of fresh and ready fruit over anything that requires prep. But cooking — the long slow kind — transforms quince's white flesh into a beautifully pink fruit paste, heavily perfumed with elderflower, pear, vanilla and tropical fruit. For more on this, Emily Green beautifully details the processing of her homegrown “accidental” quince. And for where to find local varieties of quince, turn the page.

The method for preparing most quince fruit is perhaps the simplest demonstration of what our modern culture calls slow food. But time and attention yield incredible results. Hardly surprising then that one of the more flavorful heirloom varieties of quince — Meech's Prolific — made Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste.

Mike Cirone of See Canyon and Cirone Farms is the only California grower currently offering the Meech's Prolific, but if you can't make it to the Santa Monica Wednesday market — or Morro Bay, if you're up for a farmers market road trip — you can find the more readily available pineapple quince from Mud Creek Ranch and Walker Farms. Mud Creek Ranch attends the following markets: Ojai (Sunday), Hollywood (Sunday), Santa Monica (Wednesday) and Santa Barbara (Saturday); and Walker Farms is at: Pasadena (Saturday) and Glendale (Thursday).

Find your local market on our interactive farmers market map.

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