It's a good thing I love pears because it was another banner year for my compact pear tree. I stopped counting at 250 pears, all picked from a fruit tree that has been sitting next to my driveway for more than 30 years without bearing one fruit.
This is a testament to pollination, and restraint, especially when it comes to encouraging wasps in my garden.
I gave up ever getting pears until spring 2010, when for the first time ever the tree was covered in white flowers. As I was cleaning out my birdhouses that year, I noticed a number of wasps nests inside.
When I checked the pear flowers closer, I found dozens of native wasps busily moving pollen among the flowers. I decided right then and there wasps were welcome to some of my birdhouses.
This spring, my honeybees joined their wasp cousins among pear blooms and once again, I had a wonderful harvest. Boxes have now been shipped to family members, and baskets full have made their way to friends with instructions on how to get them ripe.
Pears ripen from the inside. To ripen them, whether from a store or homegrown, they have to be kept in cold for about a week before being placed in a brown bag with an apple or banana. The ethylene gas fruit naturally gives off will speed up the ripening process. A pear is ready to eat when the bottom ridge is soft to the touch.
Over the years, my family has also enjoyed poaching pears, a simple but elegant desert.
Here's my recipe for poached pears in honey and spice:
4 ripe yet very firm pears (Bosc or Bartlett)
4 cups water
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup sugar
4-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 star anise pod, broken in half
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
Peel pears and cut them in half from top to bottom, leaving the stems intact. Core each pear half by scooping out the center with a spoon or melon baller.
Add water, honey and sugar to a 4-quart pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir until the sugar and honey are dissolved, then add the ginger, cloves, star anise and cinnamon stick. Slip the pears into the liquid and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until the pears can be pierced with a fork.
Transfer the pears and poaching liquid to a smaller container, then cover and refrigerate overnight. You can eat the pears immediately but they will have a deeper flavor after steeping overnight in the poaching liquid. Drain and serve.
You can also reduce the poaching liquid into a syrup. Place in a wide saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes or until syrupy and reduced by half. Use over pancakes or ice cream. Add pieces of cut up ripe pears to balance out the dish and to make the plate look pretty. Pears will darken exposed to air so add fresh pear slices right before serving.
Page 2 of 2 - Charlotte Ekker Wiggins is a certified gardener sharing gardening tips in a changing climate. Copyright 2013 used with permission by Rolla Daily News and Waynesville Daily Guide. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without first getting written permission. Contact Charlotte at email@example.com.