Thursday, July 28, 2011
Pears are an Underrated Fruit
Cooks in the south historically cook hard pears and make preserves, pear honey, and pear pie or some other delicious baked goods. When I was a child, we had pear trees that had tiny sweet pears that usually rotted on the tree. My MIL used to can pears but they were always grainy and kind of chewy compared to canned pears from the grocery. I wanted sweet juicy pears that you need to eat in the nude because of all that dripping juice.
Here’s what I’ve learned. Some years back we planted three pear trees. One Pineapple pear, one Hood and one that is either Keiffer or Orient or maybe it’s Keiffer and Orient and not Hood. Not to worry. I didn’t label them. I know the one in the middle is a pear that will soften and tastes wonderful peeled and eaten when picked when mature, ripened off the tree and allowed to soften. The others are ‘hard pears’ but I’m learning about softening pears. The key terms are Mature, Ripe and Soft.
In the midst of going from Mature to Ripe the pears must be picked then refrigerated, some for only a day or two, others for up to a month. The Ripe pears are brought out to soften at room temperature prior to peeling and eating or using in cooking.
Why? Because pears left to ripen on the tree on the tree develop stone cells which make the texture gritty. Then they ripen from the core outward and a ripe pear on the tree is rotten at the core. That’s why my pears were never buttery and juicy like pears from the grocery store. I was waiting for them to get ripe and soft on the tree. It isn’t going to happen.
The other thing I’ve learned is why my two hard pears alternated years having bumper crops and no pears in the off year. There are also broken limbs from the weight of all those pears. Overcropping is the term for what is happening. As difficult as it is to remove a tiny fruit, they must be thinned early and I must not wait until the limbs are hanging with big fruits. Fruit buds for the next year form soon after full bloom. Overcropping prevents fruits forming and that is why my trees alternate years.
We're eating pears: ripe, soft, juicy. I've made pear preserves.
I'm excited about sending my vegetable gardening neighbors who have shared veggies with me some ripened, soft pears for eating and some ripe hard pears for making pear tarts.
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