Not the simpleton of fruit

Posted Sep 23rd, 2009

Not the simpleton of fruit

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I can't remember the last time I heard someone get excited about pears.

Maybe because the last time anyone did, it was in the time of the Greek philosopher Homer, judging by one of the latest entries from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture in its writing campaign about food and farming in the province.

Even in the very unscientific poll conducted on this blog a couple of months ago asking people their favourite fruit, not one person picked the pear. Strawberries and peaches, oh yes. They herald a season everyone loves — summer. But not the pear. The pear signals fall, which means winter is around the corner. When was the last time anyone was excited about that?

So what is it about the bowling pin-shaped fruit whose harvest gets overshadowed by the apple and trumped by that fruit's reputation for staving off doctors? I like pears — love the taste when they start to get that soft, buttery, melt in your mouth texture. But I maybe buy only one basket a season and I have my fill. This despite the pear needing support moreso now than ever after last year's closure of CanGro, the St. Davids plant that carved up many Niagara pears for Del Monte. Many of those pears are now trying to woo consumers on store shelves reserved for fresh fruit.

They're kind of like the cabbage of fruit. Not very exciting, but a staple, nonetheless, and a very versatile one at that. Ever turned over that container of fruit juice to read the ingredients? I bet there's pear juice in there somewhere, though it won't get much credit, if any, in the product name. Don't forget, it's also a staple in fruit salad.

Anyway, here's an ode to what might be the unsung hero of the fruit world or at least the underdog in the local fruit clan.

The Perfect Pear

Juicy and sweet, the Greek poet Homer referred to pears as “A Gift of the Gods”
By the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA)

As the summer of 2009 wanes, and much of the early season produce consumed and enjoyed, there is one locally grown fruit that is just now coming into its own - Ontario pears.

Popular varieties like Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc, Clapp’s Favourite and Flemish Beauty offer shoppers plenty of choices when looking for a tasty, juicy fruit that is high in dietary fibre and is fat and sodium-free. And there is now a new addition to the pear family. Harovin Sundown was developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists and was 35 years in the making.

The Federal Government announced the name in early 2008 after more than 11,000 voters across the country pondered over five contenders: Harovin Sundown, Harovin Bounty, Harovin Gala, Harovin Pride and Harovin Prime. Typically new names include a reference to the research centre where the breeding takes place and the plant’s origins. In this case, the name Harovin is a blend of Harrow, Ontario where the Research Centre is located and Vineland, the site where it was bred.

This uniquely Canadian product is high quality and also tolerant to fire blight, a destructive bacterial disease that affects apples and pears. The new variety will also ripen later in the year in the October time frame and stores will stock for up to three months which means pear lovers can enjoy locally grown pears well past the Christmas season. Harovin Sundown is expected to be in tree nurseries by 2010 and on supermarket shelves by 2015.

Pear pointers:

  • Unlike other fruit, pears don’t ripen well on the tree. Instead they are harvested by hand before they are fully mature to complete the ripening process.
  • If left on the tree to ripen, the flesh of the pear will turn brown and the fruit will become soft
  • A pear is 83% water and a good source of vitamins.
  • About three quarters of all pears grown in Ontario come from the Niagara region.
  • Two pear varieties must be planted in an orchard for cross pollination.
  • When shopping for pears, look for fruit that is fairly firm to the touch but has some give when pressed gently. The skin should be smooth and have no surface markings.
  • Pears can also bruise easily so it is best to handle them carefully and store them in the refrigerator. To get the most of out pears, eat them within a few days of their purchase as they can spoil easily.

You can learn more about pears by visiting Foodland Ontario or Ontario Tender Fruit Producers.

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