Last week, my friend Bill phoned and asked if we wanted some pears. Bill and Molly harvest apples, pears and plums every fall and I love Molly and Bill's unique fruit varieties, so I said I'd stop by that afternoon.
In their garage, I was greeted by the subtle perfume of pears and apples in towel-covered boxes because most weren't quite ripe yet. Pears are one fruit that must be picked before ripening (for the best flavor) and then allowed to ripen slowly in a cool dark place.
When Bill lifted a towel, I noticed the pears weren’t the sleek, perfect grocery store versions you see every fall. These were yellowish-green with russet at the top and a little on the bottom. They barely had any pear shape. Bill told me Atlantic Queens came from New Jersey. Emigrants from Europe brought them. They’d started orchards on the East Coast and some the orchards were abandoned for a number of years. But these hardy, neglected trees still produced fruit. Bill said Atlantic Queens will grow in poor soil and harsh conditions.
He cut a slice of a ripe pear and held it out. Moisture glistened on the creamy white flesh. I took a bite and was surprised by a texture slightly like a Bosc only more buttery with a very sweet flavor. Maybe it would be good grilled or lightly sautéed with walnuts. But maybe Atlantic Queens are perfect by themselves.
Before I left, Molly asked it I wanted some plums. I told her the squirrels eat all our plums every year; they can clean a tree off in one day. "And they just take one bite and throw it on the ground," Molly added. She handed me one that looked like a wild plum and told me that they got these plum trees from a friend who had found a number of trees that had sprouted up in her irrigation ditch. So Molly and Bill dug a few up and transplanted one or two trees to their yard.
How's that for food in your backyard? Finn knows how to wait but he’d certainly love it if I said “Okay.”