Friday, July 13, 2012

FRUITS OF BRAZIL - Quince (Marmelo)

Although the quince tree (Cydonia oblonga) is not native to the Americas, but rather to the Balkans and Asia Minor, it arrived in Brazil very soon after the first Europeans set foot on the shores of the New World. The first Portuguese explorer to land in Brazil, Pedro Cabral, landed in what is now Brazil in 1500, and it is believed that the quince tree arrived here only thirty years later (1530) on board one of the ships of Martim Afonso de Sousa, commander of the first official Portuguese expedition to mainland Brazil.

The quince (marmelo in Portuguese) was well suited to Brazil's soil and climate, and quince trees began to reproduce and expand spontaneously. Today, most of Brazil's quinces are grown in the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais. It's in Minas Gerais where the bulk of the present-day commercial crop of quince is harvested.

Quices are a relatively unusual fruit in that they are rarely, if ever, eaten raw. They are very tart and tannic, making them unpleasant to eat in their natural state. During cooking, these tannins mellow (and change color, giving cooked quince it's lovely pink color). In Brazil most marmelos are boiled, sweetened and then reduced to a thick jelly-like paste called marmelada. (The word marmelada is the root of the English word marmalade, although now marmalade usually refers to a jam or jelly made from citrus fruits.)

Marmelada has been a feature of Brazilian cooking since colonial times as marmelada can be preserved for a long time at room temperature, allowing the fruit harvest to last through the whole year. It was extremely popular in the first half of the twentieth century, with its peak occurring during the 1930s, but recently has lost ground to goiabada, a similar paste made from guavas (goiabas in Portuguese). One of Brazil's best-known deserts, poetically called Romeu e Julieta, is a thick slice of marmelada or goiabada served alongside a slice of queijo coalho cheese. Simple to serve as it requires no cooking,  is a marvelous, homey dessert, each bite combining the sweet, floral acidity of the fruit paste, and the cheese's salty tang.


  1. Not just queijo coalho. Queijo fresco and requeijao are also popular choices.

  2. I have never had marmelada before, but I recently acquired some through a tasting box I received. I want to try it just as it would be served traditionally, but I can't find the queijo coalho. Are there any other cheeses that are similar and could easily be found in U.S. supermarkets?