We all know the phrase about comparing apples and oranges. We tell someone they’re a peach if we think they’re especially kind, and plum good is better than just plain good any day.
But what of the lowly pear? The average Canadian eats a mere 2 pounds of pears a year; they tend to be overlooked at harvest time when the other more extroverted fruit take centre stage. Yet pears are not only great eaten out of hand, they can be a versatile ingredient in both sweet and savoury dishes, and make delicious wine and cider.
For the month of October, Ontarians are encouraged to “Pear Up”. A combined initiative by over 25 groups including government and producer associations, food service organizations and culinary tourism groups, pears will be the focus across the province at restaurants, farmers markets, culinary tours and even at food banks.
With the closure of the CanGro Fruit Canning facility in St. David’s earlier this year – the last such canning facility in eastern Canada – tender fruit growers, including pear farmers, are faced with an excess amount of product, and Ontarians are faced with the prospect of having all their commercially canned fruit come from out of the country.
“Ontario normally markets about 1500 tons of Bartlett pears on the fresh market,” says Len Troup, chair of the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers Marketing Board. This year, since no pears are headed to a commercial processor, there is an additional 1,500 tons of Bartlett pears to be sold as well, in addition to other varieties such as Bosc and Anjou.
A dedicated cold storage facility has been secured to accommodate the additional volume, and up-to-date technology will ensure that the pears are at optimum quality throughout the extended season. Major supermarkets have come on board with a promise to sell Ontario pears while supplies last before sourcing imported product of the same variety.
To help turn Ontarians onto the delights of the pear, restaurants across the province will be offering dishes featuring pears from October 13th to 26th. In Toronto, participating restaurants include the Il Fornello chain, C5, Buddha Dog, Rice Bar, Sequel, Globe Bistro, Cowbell and many more. Culinarium will feature a pear canning event, and the Palais Royale is offering a pear-themed Thanksgiving brunch. Pick your own farms, farmers markets and roadside markets will feature pears all month, and many other events throughout the province will feature pears through to the end of October.
Production of new pear varieties is also continuing with pears such as the AC Harovin Sundown (which was introduced last year at the Royal Winter Fair) slated to come to market within the next few years. As pear trees take an average of seven to eight years to reach their full production potential, we can look forward to a few new varieties on the market over the next decade.
So whether it’s at a restaurant, in a recipe, or just buying a big basket of Ontario pears to eat out of hand from a local farmer’s market or supermarket, October is going to be all about pears.
More information about Pear Up events across Ontario can be found on our events page and at the Pear Up Ontario website.