When a pear’s a fish.

When a pear’s a fish.

I love reading Waverley Root’s Food. It’s chock full of all kinds of 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.

Though related to the apple only in the sense that they are both Rosaceae, 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 to 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.

The forelle, or trout pear, is one of the smallest pear varieties known to pear-dom 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 the entails is coming faster than we’d like to think.

The forelle pear came to North American in the 1800s. Apropos of turning leaves, the forelle is one of few pear varieties that changes colour as it ripens (check with Mr. McGee for information on climacteric versus nonclimacteric fruit). I think 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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