In praise of the Asian pear

The Daily Telegraph - Gardening - - Front Page -

This sweet, crunchy, late-sum­mer fruit is easy to grow – and bet­ter be­haved than the flighty Western pear, says Mark Di­a­cono

If you have seen The Man with Two Brains, a clas­sic film from the early Eight­ies, you will know of the splen­didly named Dr Hfuhruhurr, pro­nounced “Huffhurr”. For a large part of the film, the doc­tor (played by Steve Martin) is teased by a semi-clad gold dig­ger (Kath­leen Turner) with prom­ises of hot times to come. But her headache – which starts on their hon­ey­moon – seems nev­erend­ing; the promised land never quite ar­rives. This largely mir­rors my re­la­tion­ship with pears.

The South West’s cli­mate isn’t ideal for pears – the rain en­cour­ages many of their dis­eases, and even those that make it to harvest re­quire a pe­riod in stor­age to reach their peak be­fore they can be eaten. I per­se­vere for two rea­sons: I’m stub­born and refuse to be beaten by a tree; and, how­ever small the har­vests com­pared with ap­ples, what there is is very spe­cial. Not much com­pares to a ‘Glou Morceau’ or ‘Louise Bonne of Jersey’ pear eaten at its per­fect mo­ment. But that per­fect mo­ment is very short: as we know, pears like to ripen about 10 min­utes af­ter you’ve left the house, and de­scend quickly into rot just as you start your jour­ney home.

Along with grow­ing a few more pears, in the hope that some va­ri­eties will thrive, I planted a hand­ful of Asian pears ( Pyrus pyri­fo­lia) four years ago, which are now com­ing good.

Also known as the nashi (Ja­panese for pear) pear, crunch ap­ple or sand pear, Asian pears look as if Goldfin­ger has been out spray­ing the ap­ples.

They are un­ques­tion­ably Christ­massy and fes­tive, with their golden speck­led skin. Most are ap­ple­shaped and are in most ways quite dif­fer­ent to the Euro­pean pear ( Pyrus com­mu­nis) we are most fa­mil­iar with. Where the Euro­pean pear is, at its finest, but­tery and sur­ren­ders to the slight­est pres­sure, Asian pears are

Gar­dener-cook: Mark Di­a­cono spe­cialises in ed­i­ble gar­den­ing at Ot­ter Farm, Devon

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