“Fragrant pears,” said the sign at Ranch 99.
I bent in to sniff. An Asian lady rifling through the pile of elliptical fruit with a surface looking like a bedsheet covering up a pile of boulders, reminding me of quince in both color and texture, looked on amused, as if she was about to snort with laughter. But dude–the thing was called FRAGRANT PEARS. I detected a faint aroma; the refrigerated produce section wasn’t helping.
All around me, Asian hausfraus circled the fragrant pears, plucking them from the pile with graceful aggression, just shy of what could be defined as a fight. A fight for pears. Like how people circle dry farmed early girl tomatoes at the farmers’ market.
I had to have some. So I picked a cautious few and took them home. I looked up a New York Times article on fragrant pears, which piqued my interest further. (I like to know what I’m eating beforehand).
I peeled the fruit (I don’t think you have to peel them, but they’re from China and I’m not sure what kinds of pesticides they use). And took a bite.
Sheeit. It was the best pear I’ve ever had. Crisp like the best of Asian pear. Fragrant like a Western pear. And a taste that was the best of both worlds. I’m all for locally grown fruit, but I couldn’t help myself: I had to go back for more. And go back for more I did, this next time blending into the crowd with assured confidence, filling two plastic shopping bags of the pears.
I had been forlorn at the end of persimmon season (this past winter, I fell in love with persimmons–both fuyu and hachiya alike), and now I’d found a new fruit to obsess over! I fed them to a small child and he couldn’t get enough, either.
A few weeks later, I spotted fragrant pears at Berkeley Bowl. They’re at the Berkeley Bowl! I bought a few more. How can you pass this fruit up?
Being produce starved, at this time of year, every sparkling piece of produce counts whether it be mandarinquats, or ramps (this year I made a ramp-leeks-pea-lemon zest and lemon thyme risotto), or these pears.
Thought I’d share.