We have Red Pears!

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NFFtT pears summary: lots and lots of pears; what to do with unripe pears; recipe for sliced dried pears; information about Not Far From the Tree; (click on image(s) to see larger views and more photos)

“Taste and try before ye buy, my fine ripe pears!” -Edinburgh Street Vendors’ Cry

Well. You’re not going to want to taste and try these pears yet. They may be very fine. But they are NOT ripe.

NFFtT red pears

windfall pears on table and in green handled basket

There are so many volunteer pickers for Not Far From the Tree now that it’s a little tricky to get in on a pick. So imagine my delight to discover that I was one of the chosen to pick stunningly beautiful slightly unripe pears last Saturday morning.

I’m not sure what kind they are – I’m thinking maybe red Clapp’s Favourite or perhaps Flemish Beauty. But whatever they are, aren’t they gorgeous? The red colour is amazing!

Of course, we tried not to let any fall to the ground but alas, we couldn’t help it. The tree insisted on dropping the fruit to the ground as we picked. Only the volunteers can keep the windfall fruit; NFFtT never gives windfall fruit to the owner or the charitable organizations. Even when the fruit is unripe, there is generally too much bruising when it falls to the ground.

So after spending a couple of happy hours with four other congenial volunteers, I came home with beautiful but quite unripe pears galore, including a whole basket full of windfall pears….

I’m not really concerned (yet) about what to do with the unripe pears in the big basket. It was the windfall pears that were a bit worrisome. So I went onto the internet to see what others do with unripe pears.

There were a number of sites recommending poaching the pears. We’ve done that. Poached pears are lovely. But they can become a little tiresome.

Then I came across Lisa Cain’s (Snack Girl) idea. It looked brilliant!

You can make a simple treat with barely any preparation [with an unripe pear]. Just slice them up, put them on a roasting pan, and check them every 20 minutes or so until they are soft. What you have done is concentrated the sugars and the PEAR flavor – […] they are bite sized, soft, and you can refrigerate them for anytime snacking.
 
– Lisa Cain, Want A Snack That Tastes Like Pie Without Much Cooking or Calories? Try This! , Snack Girl

Pears

I started by testing one thinly sliced pear. I could have used the mandoline but I was too lazy to get it out of its bag. I used a sharp paring knife instead. The pear slices were slowly roasted in the toaster oven to make pear chips. The result was wildly successful.

And so, on Monday, when at last it was beautifully cool in the kitchen, I used the big oven to make pear chips out of all the pears in the windfall basket.

pearsPears

I have made dried pears before. Here’s what we did to make them this time:

Oven-dried Unripe Windfall Pears

  • unripe pear(s)
  • rack
  • walled cookie sheet
  1. Wash the pear(s) well and cut off any bruises and blemishes. Using a very sharp knife, thinly slice the fruit. Don’t worry about any stems and cores. Arrange the slices in one layer on a rack that is placed on top of a walled cookie sheet. You want air below and above the pear pieces.
  2. Put in a slow oven (250F to 300F) for about an hour. Turn the oven off and leave the cookie sheet in the oven for several hours to cool and dry the pear slices.
  3. The pear slices will be like soft leather. When they are quite cool, put them into a clean glass jar covered by the kind of netting that is used to sell onions or garlic. Refrigerate.

Eat the pear pieces as is, or add them to spinach salad, or put them along with thinly sliced onion and rosemary on focaccia.

After consulting with my sister about a brilliant pear and spinach salad she had served us one evening, we raced out to get spinach and made salad, adding both dried and fresh unripe pears, cutting the fresh pear into matchsticks. And instead of toasting pine nuts (we did have some in the freezer but it was still fearfully hot in the kitchen so we didn’t like the idea of turning on the stove to toast them), we roughly chopped some already roasted lightly sea-salted cashews. Sorry, no photos but trust me; the salad was brilliant.

Then, last night, as I was putting fresh rosemary and thinly sliced onion on shaped focaccia dough, I suddenly decided that we neeeeeeeded to add some thin thin slices of fresh unripe pear before drizzling the olive oil and sprinkling coarse salt over top. And just as we were about to take the bread to the barbecue to bake it, T decided we should finely chop some of the dried pears and add them too.

Oh my!! How can I arrange to have unripe pears all year round? The focaccia was fabulous. (Again, you’ll have to take my word for it. We were too busy with dinner to get the camera out.)

About Pears

I already knew that pears continue to ripen off the tree but I just learned that they won’t ripen correctly on the tree. Isn’t nature amazing?
 
When I was looking on the internet to see if I could find out what kind of pears we had picked, I came across the following:
 

Five major varieties are grown in Ontario: Bartlett (the overwhelming favorite), Clapp’s Favourite, Anjou, Bosc and Flemish Beauty.
     Bartlett, the most common pear world-wide, is bell-shaped, sweet and soft with a light green skin that turns yellow when ripe.
     Clapp’s Favourite is similar in shape, with white flesh and exceptional sweetness. Its skin turns golden yellow when ripe.
     Anjou is more egg-shaped […].
     Bosc has an elegant elongated shape with a slender neck […].
     Flemish Beauty is roundish, with thick clear yellow skin speckled with red when ripe. The creamy colored flesh becomes meltingly tender when ripe.
[…]
     Unlike most other fruits, pears don’t ripen well on the tree (these can be soft and mushy at the centre). Pears are harvested when mature and allowed to finish ripening under controlled conditions. However, for Pick Your Own, varieties on dwarfing rootstock are popular and can be picked firm-ripe for final ripening at home.
     A ripe pear is relatively firm but gives a little when pressed gently. […] Ripe pears can spoil easily and their flavor is best when cool. So it’s wise to refrigerate them and use within a couple of days of purchase.
 
Foodland Ontario | Pears
 
Bartlett This cultivar comprises about 75% of total pear production in North America. […] A red budsport of Bartlett known as Max-Red Bartlett has been planted in very small quantities in Ontario. Max-Red is similar to Bartlett except for its red colour and maturity.
[…]
Clapp’s Favorite This cultivar is an attractive, large, productive, good-quality pear. […]
Flemish Beauty This is the hardiest cultivar available for colder districts of Ontario. […] The tree is very productive and vigorous. The fruit are high in quality, but require careful timing of harvest to obtain full flavour and avoid breakdown.
 
– Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Pear Production in Ontario
 
     David Sugar, who has spent most of his career studying fruit physiology at Oregon State University’s Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center in Central Point, says pears are tricky, but not really difficult, to ripen just right.
     Pears picked when slightly immature will ripen with better quality than pears that are over mature when picked. […]
     Once commercial pears are picked, growers cool them down to about 30 degrees F. They don’t freeze at this temperature, because the fruit sugar acts like an antifreeze.
     “The colder the pears are, the longer they’ll stay in good condition,” said Sugar. “In fact, they actually need to be cooled in order to ripen properly.”
     Bartlett pears need to be cooled only for a day or two, and winter pears such as Anjou, Bosc and Comice require 2 to 6 weeks for optimal effect, he said.
     “Without this chilling process, a mature picked pear will just sit and sit and eventually decompose without ever ripening,” explained Sugar. […]
      How do you tell when a pear is ripened to perfection? “Hold the pear gently but firmly in the palm of your hand, as a baseball pitcher might hold the ball while studying signs from the catcher,” recommended Sugar. “Apply the thumb of that same hand to the pear flesh just below the point where the stem joins the fruit. When the flesh beneath your thumb yields evenly to gentle pressure, it is time to eat your pear. If you have to push more than slightly, it is not ready yet.”
     And what is the best way to eat a perfectly ripe pear? “After years of study, scientists have found that a really juicy pear is best eaten while naked, in the bathtub, so that you needn’t be concerned about the abundant juice streaming down your chin”
 
– Carol Savonen, When to pick and how to ripen pears to perfection | Oregon State University Extension Service | Gardening

So. Have we put the pears in the fridge? I’m afraid not. There is no room!!

Not Far From the Tree Not Far From the Tree

“Not Far From the Tree” is a Toronto organization that includes a residential fruit-picking program to pick fruit (with permission, of course) that would otherwise go to waste.

There are lots and lots of fruit trees and vines in Toronto!! Bearing fruit that is eaten by birds, squirrels and raccoons. If you have such a thing in your garden and would like the animals to share the fruit with people, please do contact “Not Far From the Tree”. They will send a team of pickers to clean up your yard of fallen fruit and pick the good fruit that is still in the tree. The harvested fruit is divided evenly into 3 portions: one third going to the tree owners, one third going to the volunteer pickers and the final third going to food banks, shelters, and community kitchens.

For more information about NFFtT and how you can donate your time and/or share your fruit, please go to

 

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  • Barbara M

    I have a strong memory of picking pears from trees in the Okanagan one summer, and the pear juice running everywhere; the best pears I ever had. Am I misremembering? Did we get the pears from a fruit stand?

  • I don’t remember picking pears in the Okanagan but I do remember eating Okanagan peaches, no… slurping Okanagan peaches with the juice running down our chins and forearms and onto our shirts, shorts, toes. Those peaches were fantastic!