ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Check out a holiday fruit basket, and chances are, it contains a Comice pear. The Comice is just one of many varieties of pear, and Eliza Barclay of NPR's food blog, The Salt, has this story about one of that fruit's greatest fans.
ELIZA BARCLAY, BYLINE: Joan Morgan is a British fruit expert and historian. She spent 10 years researching and tasting pears from all over the world. She says the Comice is considered to be the finest of all the pears.
JOAN MORGAN: You get these wonderful, very fine, luscious textures, exotic scents.
BARCLAY: She just published "The Book Of Pears." In it, she describes the days when the pear was the preeminent fruit on the table.
MORGAN: France would be one where certainly the pear was appreciated, and appreciated above the apple. In the 17th century and the 18th century, they celebrated the pear.
BARCLAY: Morgan says the pear's heyday was in Victorian England, where head gardeners grew 50 to a hundred different varieties at a time. Everyone back then wanted to eat pears from fall through the spring.
MORGAN: Pears were a feature of the dining tables of the affluent and the more modest homes, served as a grand finale of fresh fruit to a dinner party.
BARCLAY: America got pear fever, too.
MORGAN: California turned out to be pear heaven. This was where pears grew more beautifully and larger than ever before.
BARCLAY: But in the 20th century as pears became an agricultural commodity, growers began focusing on the most productive varieties. Those are the ones we know today, the Comice but also the Bartlett, Bosc and D'anjou. Morgan says these remain some of the very best pears to eat and cook with, but she says we're missing out on hundreds of other fabulous varieties, which is why she's on a mission to help us start growing them again.
MORGAN: We want to recover this ancient tradition of celebrating fruit, you know, celebrating it for its wonderful, glorious colors, its wonderful tastes, textures and so on.
BARCLAY: Why not start with a holiday pear? Eliza Barclay, NPR News.
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