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Fall Pear Stupor

Oct 06, 2016 12:35PM ● By Lesley Stiles

Lesley Stiles

As summer grudgingly gives up the fight and autumn claims October, a pressure is released. Skin perks up and energies expand into quasi-inspired levels of get ‘er done. The cleaning up of gardens, sheds, houses, and lives ensues. This cross into fall season is not very dissimilar to the dawning of spring after winter. Our DNA knows it, much as the rattlers going underground and the squirrels storing nuts know it. This is the best time in the world to get that winter garden in the ground so that, in a month or two you can joyfully scamper out to your back or front yard and pick lettuce, carrots, radishes and herbs for an astounding winter salad.

Fall produce in our area is anything but barren on the taste buds. Of course, the ever popular, extremely juicy and sexy summer peaches and nectarines are fading from the scene, but enter the pears and Fuyu persimmons, the pomegranates, the grapes --these fruits hold their own on that flavor scale and more.

In our area, we are beyond blessed and fortunate to have the Pereira family from Martinez growing the best pears around for our culinary consumption. Sent from heaven on amazing, very old, dry-farmed pear trees out in the valley, these pears have extraordinary nuances of sweet-as-baby-head taste, garnering just a tinge of tart against the skin that hits all the spots on the tongue and creates a craving for more. They are selling them at most local farmers’ markets, including Martinez Sunday, Pleasant Hill and Shadelands Kaiser Saturday, and Concord Tuesday and Thursday, so there is no excuse to miss them, not that you would want to!

Pears figure large in Greek mythology and are sacred to Hero, Venus, and Pomona – goddesses revered for gardens, fertility, and harvests – possibly deeming the pear to be the true forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden as opposed to the apple. Ancient Chinese revered the pear as their symbol of immortality as pear trees grow very old, sometimes older than the person that planted them, speaking strongly of permanence. Indeed, many cultures believe pears should never be divided between friends and lovers in order to avoid and prevent separation of lives. Possibly the first known mention of the pear is in the 9th century poem by Homer, The Odyssey, in which pears are mentioned as a gift of the Gods. Pears of today bow tables and tip scales at local farmers’ markets and do not disappoint or diminish any of yesteryear’s praises. They are beguilingly as sweet and luscious as any in Venus’ garden. Picked green and ripened in a root cellar or paper bag ensures smooth creamy flesh, but when left on the tree to ripen, beware of mealy, bland fruits. Pears are nutritious as well as fulfilling, and most of their fiber, phytonutrients, and antioxidants is located in their skin. Bartletts are the first to ripen, followed by Seckel, Butter and Anjou varieties, as well as about 30 other varieties in our gardens of Eden.

Pears, apples, and figs are often mentioned together in poems and stories dating back millennia, and it’s with good reason. All three are in season at the same time and are often grouped and staged together in life as well as perfectly composed still lifes.

Cooking with Pears

Cut up and tossed with fellow season blueberries and raspberries makes the ultimate late summer/early autumn fruit salad. Pears masochistically crave molten, buttery fresh- made caramel sauce on their flesh, followed rapidly by chilled and honey-sweetened mascarpone to quiet the burn. Apply to fresh poached or baked pears. No cake needed. Cut pears into fall salads of arugula, mizuna and tatsoi, crumble in luscious, veiny gorgonzola, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic, and shower with toasted, chopped almonds to turn any time of day into a paradisiacal moment of splendor, especially when shared with a glass of rose and a close friend.

Standing in your garden and gazing upon autumn’s natural splendor while pear juice drips down your chin can cause a blockage of pathways of normal productivity until the stupor of deliciousness clears from your taste buds and allows a return to normal life -- until the next pear. Get out and hike the hills.

Carrot Ginger Soup is the perfect fall to winter crossover soup. You can also use winter squash, and it

is just as good!

Carrot Ginger Soup

5 carrots, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped

4 cups stock

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

½ cup crème fraiche

Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté carrots, onion and garlic in olive oil in tall soup pot for 5 minutes. Add stock and vinegar and simmer until carrots are tender. Puree and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with crème fraiche. Makes 6 cups.