A cold, wet spring and harsh May frost all but dashed hopes for a lucrative local pear harvest.
"For much of the summer, I was thinking it was the worst year of my career," says David Sugar, professor of horticulture and plant pathology for 33 years at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center in Central Point.
What: "The Incredible Pear," a class with Oregon State University Family Food Education Volunteers. Learn preserving methods, including canning, freezing and drying, and sample pears served fresh, in soup, bread and cookies. Cost is $10; pre-registration required.
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30.
Where: Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center auditorium, 569 Hanley Road, Central Point.
To register: Call 541-776-7371.
For more information: See http://extension.oregonstate.edu/sorec.
Sugar revised his opinion, however, as early varieties were picked and packed and others approached maturity. Russet — the scabby brown patches caused by prolonged exposure to moisture — gives pears a "rough" persona this year and likely will downgrade prized varieties like Comice, says Sugar.
Bosc, on the other hand, relies on russet skin and benefitted from this year's harsher growing conditions, says Sugar. In general, local pear yields aren't "so bad," and eating quality will still be good, he adds.
Although flawless specimens may be harder to find for this year's fruit baskets, a pear's outward appearance counts for little in cooking and canning. After shipping off 23 tons of Barletts to be commercially canned, the Extension plans to host a demonstration of preserving pears in the home kitchen. Jackson County Family Food Education Volunteers will provide samples of recipes tested for its new pear cookbook, "In Praise of Pears," available for purchase at the Thursday, Sept. 30, class.
"It's got not only cooking recipes, but it's got the canning recipes," says FFEV member Jeanne Evers.
In addition to various methods of preserving, the book's 100-some recipes include soups, salads, main dishes, breads, pies, cookies, desserts and beverages. A special section on low-acid Asian pears complements pear history, nutritional data and storage, ripening and wine-pairing information.
"They denote our valley," says Evers of pears.
FFEV spent about two years revising and expanding an earlier pear booklet printed by the Extension in 1993, says Evers. The new, spiral-bound edition will be priced at about $10 or less, says Evers. Proceeds benefit FFEV, which purchases items for the Extension kitchen, she adds.
Sample the accompanying recipes from "In Praise of Pears."
Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.