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Go, Pears: Biggest Season Ever

September 03, 1997|RUSS PARSONS

The West Coast pear harvest will be up almost 25% this year, a record. For most crops this would be headline news; for pears it's a yawn.

"We don't even say we're having a record year anymore because we know that next year will be even bigger," says Maggie Andre, vice president of communications for the Oregon-Washington-California Pear Bureau. "Except for last year, we've had records three or four years in a row now, and if everything goes right, next year will be a record too."

The steadily increasing pear harvest is the result of a steadily increasing number of pear trees.

"That's because pears are being consumed more and there's a bigger demand for them," Andre says. "Until the last few years, we've actually been a deficit producer--we sell everything we produce by the end of the season."

To keep up with the burgeoning harvest, West Coast producers have been building markets overseas. Almost one-third of the harvest is exported; most of it goes to Asia, but exports to Mexico and South America are increasing and promotions are beginning in Vietnam and Russia.

Of the more than 2,000 varieties of pears grown in the United States, the Anjou is the dominant type, with about 270,000 tons of fruit this year. The almost 370,000 tons of other pears are scattered among varieties, with the Bartlett--the main one in California--the leader at about 140,000 tons.

That's a lot of pears and, moreover, they stick around longer than before. "The pear season used to be over by May," Andre says. "But with the increase in production, we're seeing product running into June. And since late July is when we start seeing California product, actually pears are a year-round commodity now."


Carolyn Olney of the Southland Farmers Market Assn. reports that the Iwamoto & Gean farm in Oxnard, which operates as Harry's Berries, is selling sorbet made from the strawberries and raspberries it grows. They can be found at the Santa Monica market Wednesday and Saturday; Glendale on Thursday; Burbank, Calabasas and Torrance on Saturday; Hollywood, Alhambra and Santa Clarita on Sunday; West Hollywood on Monday, and Torrance again on Tuesday.

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