Long, smooth and sweet, Conference pears are excellent all-rounders, which is why Tesco farmer Brian Tompsett wants to encourage people to grow more.
If you're eating a pear right now, it is most likely to be a Conference. Great for both eating and cooking, it's the UK's favourite. And Tesco farmer Brian Tompsett has been growing them for Alan Firmin Ltd, just outside of Maidstone, for over 10 years.
‘Pears like plenty of water and sunlight,' he says. ‘This year's crop will be OK thanks to last autumn's brighter weather, as it made up for the dull summer.'
But pears have been losing ground to apples because they are traditionally slow to crop. Brian is determined to get round this problem. ‘I'm now trialling a new system that results in a higher yield and better quality fruit from greater sun exposure. And if it takes off, hopefully it will encourage more people to plant pears.'
Brian picks his in September and we eat them right through to April, because of his storage systems. ‘We keep our pears at -1°C. You would think that temperature would freeze fruit but pears can withstand the cold as the sugars in it act as antifreeze,' Brian explains.
Pears are harvested when slightly under-ripe otherwise they wouldn't have much of a shelf life. ‘It is much better to let them ripen at room temperature. But they aren't at their best for long, so you can't leave them lying around like apples,' he says.
‘There is growing demand for specialist varieties too. Our Comice pears have a terrific flavour, but are temperamental to grow. And I'm trialling new varieties including an improved smoother Conference, and a Blush pear with a pinky glow.'
Pears are great poached with honey, ginger, lemon and orange juice, and sugar.
The Conference is a good all-rounder, it tastes delicious peeled and quartered and served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.
Pears also make a great addition to salads, with blue cheese, walnuts and honey, or poached in red wine.
See more Pear recipes