Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Florida's Old Timey Sand Pear

Autumn is here and it's pear season again. This means an abundance of fresh pears like bartletts, boscs, comices and anjous for fruit salads, main courses, desserts and cocktails. It also means, if you’re lucky, that you might find some old timey Florida varieties called Sand pears. They are the descendants of a Chinese hybrid pear that was bred in the 1880s.

Florida's antique Sand pears and sand pear crumble at The Florida Local Food
Summit lunch, East End Market, Orlando
Copyright 2014 by Helen A Lockey
You’ll find them growing in backyards and some farms around Ocala and Central Florida. But you won’t find many because of their fruit characteristics that don’t make them very good for eating raw. They are small, hard, pear with tough skin and grainy flesh. But despite these drawbacks they are very delicious when cooked.

The first time I encountered them was in 2009 at a farm-to-table dinner held at the Seminole Inn in Indiantown, Fla. The pears had been grown and harvested in Ocala. The chef poached the pears in some Florida wine and they were delicious albeit a bit gritty.

Recently, I came across them again, this time in Orlando, at Local Roots Distribution store in the East End Market. They were selling for $4 a pound. I bought seven pears.

Florida's antique sand pear poached in wine and water
Copyright 2014 by Helen A Lockey
When I got home my husband poached them in wine and water for 30 minutes. But he soon discovered that this was not enough to soften them. So he boiled them for an additional 30-minutes. The results produced a delicious, flavorful dessert.

I also ate them cooked into a crumble at the Florida Food Conference, held earlier this month, at the East End Market.

If you want to buy some sand pears you can contact Local Roots Distribution or find someone in Ocala that might sell you the fruit from their old timey tree.

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