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Sampling local pear favorites

BY MARY McCLINTOCK

I didn’t know who Packham was or why Packham would be triumphant, but Packham’s Triumph pears have been my favorite since 2007 when I first tried them at Clarkdale Fruit Farms. Each fall, I eagerly await the time when Packham’s Triumph are available.

That time is now! This year, I decided to find out how they got this name. Tom Clark said they were from Australia and were a cross with a Bartlett and something else, but he couldn’t remember more than that amid a busy weekend day at the farmstand. I searched on the Internet and here’s what I learned from http://goodfruitguide.co.uk.

Packham’s Triumph is the result of a cross between Uvedale’s St. Germain and Williams’ Bon Chrétien (sold in the U.S. as Bartlett). The breeding was carried out by C. H. Packham in Molong, Australia (central New South Wales), in 1896. They are mostly grown in the southern hemisphere, and also some in Europe. And, they’re described as “reliable pears with good sweetness, an attractive mild, musky flavour and juicy, melting flesh.” Ahh, yes, “juicy, melting flesh.” That juiciness, that’s why I often eat them outdoors or leaning over the kitchen sink!

Pears ripen after picking, and as, Tom Clark says, “they ripen best in a warm dark place, such as in a closed brown paper bag.” Some varieties of pears are eaten when crisp, but Packham’s Triumph are best eaten when they are juicy and have a slight “give.”

Yum!

When I stopped at Clarkdale, there were MANY varieties of pears (along with apples) and other folks were getting their favorites. One woman said she liked crisp pears.

I know lots of people who have strong opinions about their favorite variety of apple, but haven’t heard from many about their preferred pear variety.

What’s your favorite type of pear?

I eat pears as is, so don’t have a favorite cooked pear recipe to share. Here’s a tasty fall recipe a friend served recently (see below). When she said it was from “Simply in Season,” I realized I hadn’t roamed around that cookbook recently. It has LOTS of great recipes and information and is available in local libraries and at the World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield.

Do you enjoy pears fresh or use them in some cooked dish? Please send me your opinions and recipes!

Secrets of Winter Gardening, Saturday, Oct. 13, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Laughing Dog Farm, Gill.

Intensive, hands-on workshop focuses on low-tech, season-extension techniques suitable for backyard gardens and micro-farms, including basic principles and practices of growing cold hardy crops in unheated “tunnels” and “hoophouses” in New England. Pipe bending demonstration and assembly of low-tunnel hoophouse. Homegrown soup and salad included. Class fee: $35. Bring and bend your own steel hoops after class. Class repeated on Oct. 27. To save a place and get directions, contact dbotkin@valinet.com or (413) 863-8696.

This week we’re eating ...

CHARD CHEESE BAKE

By Marianne K. Miller, Little River, KS (in “Simply in Season” by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert)

1 pound Swiss chard or spinach (chopped)

Cook and thoroughly drain.

4 eggs (beaten)

1 C. milk

1 C. Swiss cheese or another cheese (shredded)

1 C. bread (cubed)

½ C. green onions (sliced)

¼ C. Parmesan cheese (grated)

Combine with cooked greens. Pour into a greased 2 quart baking dish. Cover and bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees until set, 25-30 minutes.

(Mary’s note: Make this a totally local dish by using El Jardin bread made with 100% locally grown wheat and locally produced cheese, milk, eggs and vegetables. Or, make a gluten-free dish using gluten-free bread. My friend and I discussed using sauteed, chopped leeks instead of green onions, other greens along with or instead of chard or spinach, and adding other fall vegetables such as small cubes of butternut squash. Have fun experimenting with flavor combinations!)

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