Alternate headline: Fruit-bearing friends are my favorite friends
When our neighbors Stephen and LaVerne Bright asked if we wanted some freshly-picked pears a couple weeks ago, I couldn’t say “Yes, please!” fast enough. They warned me that the pears were really unattractive, but the flavor was incredible.
Apparently, the hail storms we had this summer affected the budding blossoms of the pears and made them grow puckered and misshapen. Looks aside, they were so very delicious.
Last year, the Brights invited me to pick pears at an out-of-town neighbor’s house, whose tree was loaded to the gills with fruit that would otherwise be left to the birds if we didn’t pluck it from the branches. We’d all been eagerly watching the beautiful fruit develop on that tree, waiting to pick it since we’d been given the green light to do so.
When we decided the time was right for harvesting pears, we got to the tree to find that the hundreds of beautiful fruit had vanished. Without a trace. Not a sign of pear was anywhere. It was very disappointing, but even more perplexing.
We came to the conclusion that the neighborhood raccoons, skunks and maybe foxes caught wind that the humans were coming and made quick work with the pears.
That same night that the pears vanished, a jujube tree in my yard that I’d been watering for months mysteriously went from filled with healthy, two-inch dark fruit to barren. Jujube, also known as Chinese dates or red dates, are all over the place in Fort Davis. They look like a date, but taste like a sweet apple when they’re ripe, and have a date-like pit inside. They’re high in vitamins and fiber, and I was looking forward to picking and eating jujubes. The wildlife must’ve been full and happy that night.
When the Brights invited me to pick pears with them last week, my first thoughts raced back to that day we found the empty tree. They assured me it was at a different location, and the tree was more than ready. I grabbed a handmade shopping basket my husband picked up long ago in Michoacán Mexico, the same one I tried to fill last year, and went on my pear-pickin’ way.
Fruit-picking is more fun with friends, especially tall friends that aren’t afraid to climb up tall ladders and can reach the tippy tops of the trees. Ladder-climbing Stephen Bright handed us pears he plucked while Elaine Harmon and I filled boxes with pears. My vintage Mexican shopping basket overflowed with the imperfect fruit that tasted so delicious, right off the branch.
Tasting almost like melon with hints of vanilla, these pears were so sweet that they were unlike any store-bought pear I’ve ever eaten. Asian Pear Trees seem to thrive in the high desert of far West Texas. If you managed to end up with more pears than you can handle this season, you can core them and freeze for later use.
Records indicate that pears were cultivated about 5000 years ago in China, where they believed pears were a sign of immortality. In Greek and Roman mythology, pears are sacred to three goddesses: Hera (Juno to the Romans), Aphrodite (Venus to the Romans) and Pomona, an Italian goddess of gardens and harvests.
About 800 years ago, pears were called “a gift of the gods” in Homer’s The Odyessy. Thanks to the fiber, potassium, vitamin C and antioxidants found in pears, pears give the gift of good nutrition.
A medium-sized pear has 6 grams of fiber – 22 percent of the daily recommended amount for us, and this fiber has been shown to help lower “bad” cholesterol levels, and also aid in weight loss. Twelve percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin C is in each medium pear.
I could go on and on about the health benefits of pears but I won’t… just be sure and eat the skin of the pear as that is where most of the nutrients are.
There are more than 5,000 varieties of pear trees out there. Since each pear tree can produce fruit for up to 100 years, I’m looking forward to many opportunities to pick local pears in the future.
A few years ago, I found my favorite recipe for pears if I’m not eating them raw – caramelized pears. I can’t even explain the deliciousness of caramelized pears.
Caramelizing is a cooking method that converts the starches in foods to sugar, which produces a deep, rich caramel sauce around the pieces of fruit. You can caramelize any firm fruit, but steer clear of berries because they are too soft. I like serving our warm caramelized pears over cold vanilla ice cream, preferably homemade.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
4 medium pears, cored and cut into large dice (about 4 cups)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional – I don’t use them)
Melt butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat. When it foams, sprinkle sugar over top and cook until bubbling and dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add pears and cook, stirring rarely, until mixture is caramelized and pears just begin to release their juices. Gently fold in cloves and serve over your ice cream.
Printed with permission of the Alpine Avalanche