Books Magazine

A Fine Pear

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
It falls to the Saturday Blogger to round out a week of fruit-themed posts and I'm feeling particularly autumnal tonight, so figured I would 'big up' the oft-overlooked pear. It's ripe for reappraisal...
Although it is habitually relegated to second place behind the apple (lower on the stairs, so to speak), there is a good case for arguing that 'a pear a day' will do you more good than its more famous cousin; (not that they are closely related, but they are both members of the plant family Rosaceae - yep,  roses believe it or not).
Here's what is so good about pears. Firstly they are hypoallergenic. Fewer people have an adverse  reactions to pears than to just about any other fruit, which is why pear is commonly found in baby-foods and why it is often the first fruit that infants are exposed to. Pears are also high in dietary fiber (especially the skin) and one pear a day will provide all the fiber a person needs to maintain a healthy digestive system and to lower bad cholesterol levels. Next they are low in both calories and carbohydrates and low on the glycemic index, so are great for diabetics or anyone needing to keep their blood sugar levels low. In addition they are full of anti-oxidants like vitamin C and copper; also vitamin B complex, E and K all of which boost the immune system, boron which helps the body retain calcium and counter osteoporosis and phytonutrients like beta-carotene and lutein which have anti-inflammatory properties.
Given all of those health benefits, it's not hard to understand why the miraculous pear came to symbolise immortality in ancient China.
What is more difficult to account for is the marked ascendancy of the apple over the sumptuous pear.
Is it simply because apples are hardier and longer-lasting, (not given to bruising and rotting so quickly)? Is it because pears are messier to eat? I suspect both to be major factors. In my opinion, however, there is nothing finer than a just-ripe pear sliced and accompanied by a little cheese. Mouth-watering (and healthy).
A Fine Pear
Nowadays, like so much else, the vast majority of the world's pear production is centred on China - a quite staggering 80% (that's over 20 million tons of pears annually), with Argentina (at slightly under 1 million tons) a distant second. Of course, most of the pears consumed in Europe are grown within the EC (Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and France in descending order of tonnage - and the UK doesn't even feature on the list).
Given the predominance of China as a pear producer and given the rapidly rising levels of pollution in that country as it heaves itself to the top of the world's table of industrialised nations, I began to speculate about what might happen to its vast orchards as the problem of climate change escalates - widespread air pollution, a ravaged bee population (with a nod to last week's blog), smog-filled skies through which the sun rarely penetrates and frequent dousing of acid rain - not a great environment for growing fruit!
In keeping with the conceptual pun of the blog's title, I offer you two poems this week. The first is posted as confirmation (for those who doubted it after my somewhat tongue-in-cheek blog about the Romantics a few weeks ago) that I really do like the poetry of John Keats, (Keatsy to his mates). It paints a rich picture of a harmonious and untainted natural world. The second, per my dystopian musings above, is the latest bitter fruit of my own tree. I hope you will enjoy both and maybe muse about the changes that 200 years of messing with the planet have wrought (progress at what price?)
To Autumn
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
  With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
  And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
   To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
  With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, late flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
   For summer has o'er-brimmed their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
  Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor.
  Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep
  Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
   Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
  And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
   Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
  Think not of them, thou hast thy music too -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
  And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wilful choir the small gnats mourn
  Among the river sallows, borne aloft
   Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
  And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden croft;
   And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
   John Keats (1819)
Perry Groves
Before this latest revolution
turned the natural order
upside down, these orchards,
framed since ancient Cathay days,
would fill the fruit bowl of the world
with golden pears to spare,
ripe with the juice of immortality.
Now sunshine rarely penetrates
vast layerings of toxic smog,
so serried rows of stunted trees
struggle perennially to put forth
their show of snow in spring,
and decimated colonies of bees
are labouring against the odds
on ravaged wing to do their thing,
while caustic rains
have blighted leaf and limb
in every fast-declining perry grove.
the harvest of man's immorality,
for paradoxically
nothing is pear-shaped anymore
and suddenly everything is.
As a bonus, here's a hyper-linked musical mood-piece redolent of the time of the season, courtesy of Pink Floyd:  Fat Old Sun
Thanks for reading - this blog counts as one of your five-a-day, S ;-) Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook


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