The Red-waxed Winter Pears of France – Passe Crassane

“There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

A few days ago I was in Monte Carlo (yes, I know that’s not in France, and this is a post about French pears but bear with me). Like a moth to the lamp light, I was drawn to the market there.

I saw many treasures, ready-grilled beetroot, massive oblong strawberries, mini avocados…. and then I found these. Rose-blushed pears with red-lacquered stems. What? Why? How?

What?

These pears are Passe Crassane pears. This is a pear which first appeared in France in 1855. It’s a fruit which has grown in popularity since it was first cultivated, but it’s been harder to source recently due to a disease which has attacked the trees. The vendor told me that he’d imported them from France, just over the border from Monaco.

The Passe Crassane pear has a yellow-green skin with a rosy blush to it, and indeed the flesh gives off a soft scent of rose, slightly grainy and tart.

Why?

Most people will be considering the season for pears to be autumn, but the Passe Carassane is what is known as a ‘winter’ pear (like the more readily available Conference). These pears don’t actually ripen on the tree. You have to pick them, and then ripen them over winter. You need to stop the pear dehydrating during this process, and one of the main water escape routes from the pear is the stem.

How?

So the thing to do is to allow the pear to stay on the tree as long as possible – it should be picked just before the first frost. Then the stem is blocked using red sealing wax – this is done by hand. Then the pear is stored carefully for six weeks to two months.

Apparently my timing was impeccable – they only appear for about three weeks in the year. In Britain, you can buy them from Natoora.

The market at Monte Carlo
The market at Monte Carlo
This post is dedicated to The Tort.
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