The term is a funny redundancy, since all pears are Asian natives, as are their relatives, the apples. But perhaps the Asian pear does deserve the distinction. It is notably different—rounder, crunchier and juicier—than the pears most Americans are accustomed to. Moreover, it’s a popular item in Asian grocery markets and only recently began to gain popularity in the broader marketplace.
At our farmers markets, locally grown Asian pears are currently heaped in piles, where sample slices reveal the snow-white, crisp flesh that hides beneath the pears’ rough brown skin. At the various Sacramento and Davis locations of Perry’s Garden Highway Gardens, for instance, two varieties of Asian pear will be available at least through the end of the year. John Perry, who co-manages the family farm, says interest in Asian pears is growing in the larger community, where a favorite use—besides eating them like, well, pears—is slicing them into savory salads.
At the Perry’s farm in Natomas, the cold, wet weather of 2011 spurred a problematic blight which thrives in such weather, so the crop is down this year. But demand is high and—like oranges, apples, bananas, pomegranates, almonds and so many other fruits of the Old World—we can expect to see the once-exotic Asian pear become a standard staple of America.