When I returned home from the Whatcom County Farm Tour last weekend I got a phone message from my gardening friends Molly and Bill who had a bumper crop of pears and wanted to know if I wanted a few. I think my cooking assistant would abandon me if I didn't take this offer so I jumped on it right away and drove over to their house.
When I got to there I was surprised when Bill handed me two full boxes of pears. On the left are Atlantic Queens and on the right are Orcas. I can't remember what the odd pear is in the middle but it was ripe so I ate it soon after this photo was taken. Sweet with a creamy Bosc-like texture only more creamy, the sweet tones and juice practically sparkled in my mouth. My assistant sulked when he didn't get a sample.
Bill helped me carry the boxes to the car and told me I must keep them cool.
Storing and ripening
Pears are one of the only fruits picked unripe and when they ripen it starts on the inside. A pear can quickly go from ripe to rotten so some farmers keep the pears in cooling rooms before they ripen. The best way to store them is in the refrigerator. Take a pear out and let it ripen on the counter, but be careful don't let it overripen. Feel them everyday around the stem--kind of like Hansel in the old Hansel and Grettle fairy tale.
"Feel around the stem," Bill said. "If it's soft, it's ready."
After he walked away I gazed at the full boxes and thought, even if I dehydrate a lot of them and let others ripen slowly, I still had more than we might eat. Today I'm loading up some bags of pears for my neighbors to share this sweet bounty.
Sharing the harvest
Many backyard gardeners who cultivate apples and pears are blessed with more than enough to share this year. In Bellingham, people harvest unused tree fruit for food banks. A new Northwest publication Grow Northwest featured an article about Small Potatoes, a local gleaning project that became administrated by the Bellingham Food Bank in 2009.
Small Potatoes Program Coordinator Max Morange said, "The response has been terrific. Food Bank supplies of fresh produce are often low at the beginning of the harvest season and at its end. . . The difference between a canned item and one that's been harvested hours before distribution is like that of night and day."
I searched to find other Northwest gleaning projects and one of those is in Southwest Seattle called glean it. Another organization in Seattle Lettuce Link is a program of Solid Ground. When I checked Portland for gleaners, I found this blog that listed Urban Gleaners, a very cool organization that picks up fresh food from orchards, fields, grocery stores and restaurants to deliver food to food banks.
You don't really need to call gleaners if you have overloaded fruit trees, but don't let the harvest go to waste when so many people could use more fresh fruits and vegetables. Why not share with neighbors or contact food banks to see if they'd like a donation.
Book Tour Notes
I'm headed to Portland this weekend for the Veg Fest, and of course I'll sneak in a farmers' market visit or two. I can't miss Ayers Creek grapes and Gathering Together Farm fresh salsa at Hillsdale Market on Sunday. On Sunday at 12:00pm, I'm putting together something a savory vegan creation from The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook. Next Wednesday I'll be in Vancouver BC at Barbara Jo's Books to Cooks where I'll host a cooking demo and serve up a fantastic vegetarian meal with recipes from my book. I've decided to stay at the Granville Island Hotel. I feel a little bad that my cooking assistant can't make either trip but frankly I can't wait.