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IN SEASON

Some Pears Are Red-Hot

November 04, 1998|RUSS PARSONS

The Pacific Northwest pear industry is riding such a boom that even El Nino couldn't throw it off.

Though this year's harvest of winter pears (basically, everything but Bartletts) is down 15% from last year's record crop, it's actually higher than the average of the last five years.

"We've got more acreage coming into bearing all the time," says Maggie Andre, spokeswoman for the Pear Bureau Northwest.

That was more than enough to offset temperamental weather patterns. "We had hot hot hot spells, and then all of a sudden we would get lot of rain," says Andre. "We had a late, wet spring, the blossoms set late and everything got off to a slow start. You can't fight with Mother Nature; she wins every time."

The main fallout of all of this is that the so-called summer pears, Bartletts, are still on the market even while the winter pears are flooding in. This is particularly bad news for California growers, who are even later. They count on getting their pears to market first to get a better price. This year they're swimming against the tide.

The dominant winter pear in the United States is the Anjou, followed by the Bosc and the Comice. A real comer, Andre says, is the Forelle, heretofore a fairly minor variety that is showing up more and more often. Fortunately for the Forelle, it shows a reddish blush, something that is becoming a hot marketing button in the pear world, which was previously dominated by green and tan.

"It's a very pretty little pear, it's cosmetically beautiful," says Andre. "And this is strictly subjective, but next to the Comice, I like the flavor of the Forelle best. It's a crisp little pear, even when it's ripe. And it's a very forgiving pear. It won't melt before your eyes if it gets a little overripe."

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FARMERS' MARKET REPORT

Taking a walk around the Westwood Thursday farmers' market, it was hard to tell whether it was the start of November or the middle of July. At one stand, Scattaglia Farms from Littlerock had burnished gold Bartlett pears, almost winey they were so ripe. Only steps away, Beylick Farms from Fillmore had lipstick and frying peppers as well as gold, orange and red bell peppers and ancho and Anaheim chiles.

While it was cider time at Sherrill's Orchard from near Arvin, with apple- and pomegranate-based juices, Valdivia Farms from north San Diego County had zucchini flowers, ronde de Nice zucchini, radishes, blue lake and yellow wax beans and various tomatoes.

Some stands incorporated both ends of the spectrum single-handedly. Kosmo Farms from Cuyama had early walnuts (still in their green skins at this time of year?)and a nice assortment of apples right next to September Sun peaches.

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