By Gail Thomas
There’s nothing better than a fresh juicy ripe pear, simply by itself, as a perfect match with a glass of Sauternes or in any number of sweet or savoury dishes. Kicking off the season in January and February are the delightful tiny paradise pears, also sometimes known as sugar pears, crystal pears or faccia bella, with their rosy blushed cheeks.
While the fruit is of a miniature size and borne in bunches, the trees grow to a more conventional 4×4 metres in an upright form although they could easily be adapted to espaliering or shaped to suit smaller gardens. Pear trees require minimal spur pruning only as needed while the trees mature and do best in temperate to cool regions. They have a deep root system so deep watering when dry is also recommended.
Paradise pear trees are now available from nurseries for the home gardener through Flemings and while pollination is unknown for paradise pears Flemings suggest possibly Corella. Trees start producing after about 3 years and these crisp and crunchy golf ball-sized fruit can be enjoyed fresh with cheese, are great for kids’ lunch boxes and are also excellent for cooking.
Individual whole pears are a perfect size to serve as part of a refreshing salad – wrap them in slivers of prosciutto – with antipasto or simply peel and pickle them in spiced vinegar syrup for later use. Likewise, they make delightful individual pear tarts and can also be brandied with sugar for dessert– strain off the brandy syrup, add some grated lime rind and juice and set as an accompanying jelly.