pear cider


I wrote a piece about Perry, or pear cider, a few years back. It led me back home from literature and other errors, because it was about much of what I care about deeply and it was about pears, which are, well, just amazing. This, for example.


The piece I wrote was called A Recipe for Perry, and, yes, it contains a recipe. Hopefully, it carries a little of the spirit of the rain.


It goes like this (and I quote):

In 1982, a farmer phoned me up in Hedley, the old mining town so down on its luck that it had survived the twentieth century pretty much intact, and asked could I grow him some pear rootstocks, and graft some Asian pears onto them. The next day I went to the Agricultural Experimental Farm in Summerland and picked Old Homes off the ground for their seeds. That was before the Farm became the Agribusiness and Food Experimental Station, before the funding for the fruit-breeding program was diverted to the genetic-engineering of fruit to survive cold storage. Back then, pears still grew in the Benvoulin area of Kelowna. It was perhaps the best pear land in the world. Sure, pears and apples and quinces are all swellings of their stems, but pears, well, if apples are leaves, full of water and sugar like lumps of cotton candy, pears are wood. Each pear is a piece of carved wood.


P1230409Hedley was an old gold mining town down on its luck. Way down. The piece went on like this:

Each pear is a piece of furniture, lovingly shellacked by hand with an old cloth, over and over and over again, each one, and hung up on a tree by wind and light and bees, and each pear tree just keeps producing better and better pears the older and older it gets.

P1230418The pears are, of course, my gold. I went on:

 Get a knobbled over, blackened pear tree, all bent and hanging down like a sprung umbrella, with the fruiting spurs gnarled like the spikes of fighting cocks, and broken off, and ending in tiny black buds so brittle you brush against them and they snap, and the pears from that tree will teach you about life. When you pick them, you’ll taste the snow in them, that has flowed down into the soil. You’ll know something about living on this earth. Now the Benvoulin has been paved over and the Orchard Park Shopping Mall anchors the northern corner of the plot. You can go to a supermarket on the old onion field next door and, gosh sakes, buy a pear, but don’t look for one of these: Coppy, Arlingham Squash, Early Griffin, Brown Bess, or Gin. You’ll find exactly this, in their place: Asian pears, each in a foam balloon, likely from China; Bartletts, from Washington, just the thing that used to grow behind Orchard Park, with pheasants walking underneath the trees and the wind howling through smelling of the lake; Anjous, that’s to say Beurre d’Anjous; some Boscs, thin-stemmed like wine glasses; some Red Bartletts, thin on the palatte; some Seckels, that taste like wildflowers if you get them right and wallpaper paste if you don’t; some Comices, that taste like blossoms, hopefully; some Forelles, or trout, which are speckled as the bellies of trout, and small, with their Sonnensprossen, their freckles brought out by the sun, and their red blushes. Just pop the things into your mouth all at once, and they taste like, they taste like Fridge.

Well, look at what I found growing in a ditch a couple days ago: perry pears! They taste like old tea bags! Hurray!


For Perry pears, old tea bags is exactly what you want to taste like. Over the winter that can be transformed into heaven. That is art. It works with the earth. Just like the sun does.

P1230440The Sun!

Tomorrow: Pear Picking Time! What splendid good fortune! How lucky can one man be!


Note: A Recipe for Perry is available from me or from the Okanagan Institute.

6 replies »

  1. I love this little story! So beautifully written, transforming the humble pear into a work of art. I wish the old varieties still existed. There is nothing better than the first bite of a pear, sun-warmed, straight off the tree.


    • Those varieties still exist! (or many of them, at any rate.) Just not in Western North America except for my little gem of a tree, whatever variety it is. I suspect it’s a seedling and we can name it. Any suggestions? By the way, the story goes on for 20 pages. It’s really about peace. i.e. not war, but peace. Through pears!


      • Love it! Peace through pears. We don’t have many old varieties here (south-west Western Australia). A lot of the orchards are suffering from competition from cheap imports.


    • Mine, too. Did you see the apple one that came from it?

      There’s also one on Peaches, one on Sumac, and one on Riesling. The latter two are not published yet. Best, Harold


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