31 July 2011

Quatre-vingts poires

That's about how many pears I picked off our one little pear tree yesterday morning — eighty. Now I have to ripen them. Everything I read says that pears don't ripen properly if left on the tree. They will ripen better after they are picked.

You pick pears when they are mature but not yet ripe. One way to tell if they are mature is to take the pear in your hand as it hangs on the tree and turn it to a horizontal position. If the stem snaps off, the pear is mature and ready to be picked and ripened.

About 80 pears — the French word poire is pronounced [pwahr]
and it's a feminin noun (une poire, la poire)

The pears I picked were like that. Also, a good dozen of them, and maybe more, were half eaten by birds. I assume that means the pears have started to get sweet, otherwise the birds wouldn't be attracted to them. I have seen quite a few merles — European blackbirds — in and under the pear tree over the past week.

The woman we bought the house from says that these
poires Williams, but you can't prove it by me.
Wikipedia says
poire Williams are the most
widely cultivated variety worldwide —
they're called Bartlets in America.

The low-hanging pears were easy to pick, of course, but a lot of the best-looking ones were high in the tree. In fact, more of those toward the top of the tree were half eaten, so I assume they are the sweetest ones. The half-eaten ones had to be discarded. The pear tree isn't very tall — maybe 15 or 20 feet. Wikipedia says pear trees can grow as tall as 35 or even 45 feet and live for 200 years.

This picture might be worth the thousand words below.

To get the pears at the top of the tree, I used a device that we found in the garden shed when we moved here eight years ago. It's a plastic "hand" mounted on the end of a long bamboo pole. A string runs through rings at the end of the "fingers" of the "hand" and down the pole through a couple of eyelets screwed into the wood. When you pull the string, the fingers close. If you've put the hand around a high-hanging pear, all you have to do is pull the string and then pull down on the pole. Voilà! You've picked a pear, without having to climb up on a ladder.

Mature pears packed for ripening

I have pears of every size. I started to try to sort them by weighing them, but that quickly seemed like a silly idea. I can say that the smaller pears weigh a little less than 100 grams each, and the larger ones weigh as much as 200 grams — close to half a pound. I hope the smaller ones are sufficiently mature to ripen. I went ahead and picked them because I was afraid the birds would get them if I didn't.

Now I have to figure out how to preserve such a big crop. My idea for the moment is to poach them in a sugar syrup after they've ripened a little, pack them in sterilized jars in the syrup, and then put them in the pressure cooker for the right amount of time to seal the jars. If it works, we'll have pears all winter for making tarts or pies or other desserts. Poire Belle Hélène, for example, which is a poached pear with hot fudge sauce and, for good measure, a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Another possibility is to put the pears up in alcohol — vodka or what is sold here in France as alcool à fruits. We have decisions to make.


  1. Those pears looks fantastic Ken. How lucky you are to have such a large crop!

  2. Mouth-watering. And I love that plastic "hand."

  3. pears are wonderful! I think you can also freeze them. Or dehydrate them. But freezing would be better. Or try all the different methods and decide which you prefer.

  4. I love the gizmo for picking pears--really clever! We're going to have to wait a few years before we get any fruit off our young tree--planted a Doyenne de Comice. Both options sound yummy.

  5. Love that artificial hand for picking! Your pear plans sound yummy, Walt will be able to make some tarts this winter...

  6. This is clearly an opportunity to avoid the need to agonize over a decision...do some of each.

  7. Oh, boy, we have photos of pear tartes in our future!

  8. Comice Pears are a specialty here in Oregon. At least they've always been in my family!

    Summer is the time for fruits and I love it!

    I'm with Seine Judeet - I can't wait to see what luscious items you concoct with your pears, Ken!
    And...the recipes I might get to try!

  9. I really want that picking hand... did it look old when you moved in, Ken? Will I need to look out for it in the vide-greniers, perhaps?

    We've a picking tool that is more the traditional bag and metal fingers... fine for the cherries and plums, but more tricky for the apples as it tends to remove the fruiting spur if you're not careful.

    'Human' word is "playeti"... sounds a good trade name for that grab.

  10. I want that picking tool too! I poach my pears in lots of syrup then freeze. I have more syrup than I really need for the frozen pears, so I add a little Poire Williams and make sorbet with the leftover syrup.

  11. That sounds good, Susan. Maybe I'll do the same.

    Tim, I wonder if one can find that kind of picking tool in a garden shop. It's a great invention and makes picking fruit so easy.

    Thanks, Craig, Mitch, Kristi, Antoinette, Evelyn, Bill, Judy, Mary. I have high hopes for ripe pears preserved for wintertime use.

  12. Spare some and make a jar of spiced pears - great with charcuterie or cheese. Sharon


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