A member of the rose family, pears come in various shapes, sizes, and flavours. Most pears are characterized by a broad base tapering to a slender neck. In Alberta, the province's colder climate can be a challenge for traditional pear varieties. However, thanks to the diligent work of horticulturists and local farmers, several hardy varieties have been identified that fare well in Alberta's conditions, such as the 'Ure' pear and the 'Early Gold' pear. These varieties are cold-resistant and can produce quality fruit in the province's shorter growing season.
Pears have ancient roots, with their cultivation dating back over 3,000 years. Originally found in Asia and Europe, they made their way to North America with European settlers. In Alberta, the quest for cold-hardy fruit varieties led to the exploration and testing of diverse pear trees. Over the years, local agricultural experts and passionate gardeners have successfully identified and cultivated pear varieties suitable for Alberta's unique environment.
Pears are wonderfully versatile in the culinary world. They can be eaten fresh, right off the tree, or used in various dishes. When slightly underripe, they hold their shape well in cooking, making them perfect for poaching in red wine or baking into tarts and pies. Pears also pair beautifully with cheeses, especially blue cheese, in salads or cheese boards. Their natural sweetness can be used to balance savoury dishes, like in a pear and brie stuffed chicken breast. In Alberta, where the harvest might be smaller due to climatic constraints, every pear is treasured, and recipes often bring out their natural, delicate flavour to shine. Additionally, for those looking to preserve the taste of the season, pears can be canned, turned into jams or jellies, or even fermented into pear cider, known as perry.