Say the words juicy, smooth and buttery, and most people think dessert has arrived. They would be right. We’ve harvested our luscious, sweet Warren pears and they’re just as juicy, smooth and buttery as you remember.
Warren pears are named after Thomas Oscar Warren, the man who discovered them. Legend has it that Warren found this delectable pear growing in the post office parking lot in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Warren was a horticulturist, so he knew he’d found something special. This was the 1970s, and Warren started to give budwood – a portion of the tree that’s used in propagation – to other horticulturists he knew. Eventually, the Warren pear found its way to a nursery in Bodega Bay where Farmer Al discovered it. He planted the first Warren pear trees in 1994. Today, Farmer Al grows 15 acres of Warren pears.
A rare treat
Warren pears are a cross between a Seckel and a Comice. Seckel are tiny, sweet pears, with high sugar and low acid. Comice are large pears, famous for their soft, smooth, buttery flesh. These two pears together are a dynamite combination – but there’s a catch: Warrens are notoriously difficult to grow, so they aren’t widely planted in nurseries. Frog Hollow Farm is one of the only places you’ll find them.
Trees need pollinators to grow – they need bees. But bees are not really attracted to pears, Farmer Al says. (They’re very attracted to apples, but not to pears.) To grow a Warren pear, we need bees to cross-pollinate our trees – that means the tree’s fruiting flowers need to be touched by pollen from another, similar tree nearby. The genetics have to align. And the bees have to cooperate.
It’s a challenge, but with the first bite he took of a Warren pear, Farmer Al knew it would be worth the effort. To cross-pollinate our trees, Farmer Al buys frozen pollen and he keeps it in the freezer until it’s time to apply it. Our team uses a special blower to disperse the pollen into the trees at three different blooming stages. Mother Nature does the rest, and the farm crews help along the way.
Using frozen pollen to grow a top-quality variety is an extra step, and one that most farmers don’t want to add to their already full plates. And that’s why Warren pears are so hard to find anywhere else.
How sweet is sweet?
Farmer Al knows that our Warren pears ripen in early August. The fruit goes from being green to having a yellow hue. When he sees the skin changing color, he picks a few pears and we test the brix, or sugar content. We look for a brix reading of 16 for our Warren pears. (Most store-bought pears are about a 12.) When the crop hits 16, it’s time to harvest! Pears, unlike our peaches, continue to ripen in cold storage and become even more luscious and sweet, which is why we are fortunate to be able to enjoy them into December.
Warren pears are delicious on their own. They’re smooth and virtually grit-free. They also combine well with other foods and flavors. One of Farmer Al’s favorite ways to enjoy a Warren pear is with toast that’s been brushed with olive oil and garlic. Add some gorgonzola cheese and slices of Warren pear and… wow. They’re also delicious in baked goods – Chef Becky makes a wonderful Warren Pear and Frangipane galette.
Enjoy these versatile – and very rare – pears while they last!