Autumn is the tail end of the season of fresh, local fruit. Self-picked blackberries and bought apples and plums are among the last local delights before moving to a more spartan (though still delicious) range of root vegetables for the winter.
But hang on! Whatever happened to that other autumn regular, the pear? In my childhood it was apples and pears that were the regulars, with other fruits being a bit of a treat. Yet now, all the pears you see in the shops tend to be rock-hard. If you buy them and leave them to soften, they’ll be grotty as soon as they’re ripe. I expect that’s because, as with many fruits nowadays, they’re picked prematurely and expected to ripen thereafter. Only pears don’t ripen so well off the tree.
Not wishing to lose out on this delicious taste, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best thing is to cook them. Last week I bought four good-looking William pears. Today they were on the point of going soft, so I chopped them up, stewed them briefly with a little ginger and dark brown sugar, and then folded them into whipped cream in the liquidiser. Turns out Pear Fool has a gorgeous taste: perhaps not quite so special as gooseberry or blueberry, but I think nicer than second-rank fool fruits like apricot or rhubarb. Yum!
Still, I’d love to eat fresh pears again, ripe but not grotty. Why can’t our producers and retailers get their act together and supply something decent, as of old?