Pre-pear for pear season

Pre-pear for pear season

Pears are delicious. Pears are now.

Did you know that there are five major varieties of pear grown in Ontario? Many of you will know this as inveterate pear-eaters, but the most prevalent varieties are Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc, Clapp’s and one called a Flemish Beauty (of which I have never heard). They are all beauties to my way of thinking.

The Bartlett, in fact, is the one pear most people will know — and so it should be: it’s likely the most common pear on the planet and probably pre-dates apples though more of the latter are grown. The Anjou and the Bosc are close runners-up in our markets and on grocery store produce shelves.

Pears are notable in that they don’t ripen well on the tree, so you do that at home. (You should refrigerate your pears for optimum storage, by the way.) Know that when you eat a pear, you eat about 100 calories and get a good dose of fibre, Vitamin C, potassium and folacin.

I love reading Waverley Root’s book Food. Published in 1980, the tome is chock-full of all kinds of delicious and arcane food-related stuff, and his writing style and attitude is as seductive as it is informative. Fitting, perhaps, that for the erudite Root, the pear entry warrants three pages.

Forelle pears with "lenticels" (Photo: WREats).

Forelle pears with “lenticels” (Photo: WREats).

Though related to the apple only in the sense that they are both Rosaceae, the pear originates in eastern Asian and is thousands of years old.

Root points out that the pear falls to a distant second in terms of popularity and adaptability: most countries producing both fruits grow three and fours times as many apples as pears. Any attempts at hybridization of the two inevitably fail (except in some sort of Gerber’s apple-pear juice): grafts of apple and pear plants wither and die, apparently.

Oddly enough, but perhaps even too odd for Root’s arcana, pears can be “fish. Yes, the forelle pear, a German variety, is the German word for “trout.”

The freckling—known as lenticels (pores)—on the fruit’s skin was seen as mimicking the markings that appear on the rainbow trout. They likely appeared on the north Saxon pear-scene in the 17th century.

Forelles are "trout" pears (Photo: Rare Republic).

Forelles are “trout” pears (Photo: Rare Republic).

The forelle, or trout pear, is one of the smallest pear varieties known to peardom and has a beautiful reddish hue which I thought nicely mimicked the turning of the fall leaves (and they are available mid-June to March). The colour might just make them a good holiday-decoration pear (if anyone is looking for such a beast): fall and all that entails is coming faster than we’d like to think.

The forelle pear came to North American in the 1800s. Apropos of those turning leaves, the forelle is one of few pear varieties that changes colour as it ripens. The forelle has a fairly strong flavour and crisp texture. As a specialty pear, it may be hard to find in local grocery stores, and I haven’t heard of any grown locally. But if you happen to know for sure, I’d love to know too.

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