In Thomastown, I find myself a back lane and skip along it, counting the backyard fruits. Olive, lemon, fig, apple, peach, olive, lemon, plum, fig, apple, pear. The pears, I notice, have all been thoroughly gouged by parrots, so that there are just rusting cores dangling from the branches. It makes me worried for our pears at home.
This season I'm having my first ever glimpse of serious pear action. I planted a nashi and a Beurre Bosc in 2011. In 2012 they flowered, but three weeks apart. The nashi managed to pollinate two of its own flowers, so in 2013 we had two exemplary nashi pears to eat, but the bosc blossomed in vain. Frustrated, I got hold of a Wiliams bon Chrétien and put it in place of the dud supposedly-white mulberry from Bunnings, hoping that the Williams would pollinate the bosc. Of course, being a wee tiddler last spring, it didn't flower at all, but the nashi and the bosc synchronised their watches, the bees berserkered between the blossoms, and around November I was very excited to see ...
Meanwhile, the nashi has been all kinds of splendid, its ridiculously abundant fruit ripening since around about the time our plum ran out, in mid February. The first clue that the fruit were ready for eating came when we observed Shirley leaping into the air and nipping beakfuls of flesh from the low-hanging fruit. I wouldn't say that chickens are an infallible guide to deliciousness (unless you're keen on cabbage moth larvae), but in the last six months they've snaffled ripe raspberries, ripe banana passionfruit, ripe plums, and ripe Polka apples, so I figure they know a thing or two about fruit.
The Beurre Bosc, on the other hand, has been fattening a grand total of seven glorious russet-brown pears, and I've had no idea when they're best picked. Diggers says that they fruit in April, but then they also say that their Nashi fruits in April-May. The January heatwave may have done its bit for hastening ripeness, and local climate differences make huge differences too (the last of our Anzac peaches was practically melting with ripeness by the end of December, whereas a friend from Nagambie gave me a bag of firm Anzacs in mid-January).
Last night I lay in bed listening to the fruit bats cavorting in nextdoor's giant fig and wondering when they'd find our pears.
Today I saw that one had been nibbled. I rinsed it and nibbled it myself. Still firm, firmer than a perfect pear, but sweet, and juicier in the middle than the outside. I've read that you get a better pear - less grainy - if you pick it before its ripe, leave it somewhere cool (I'm hoping the fridge will do) for a couple of weeks, and then let it ripen off the tree. So I've picked 'em – Dog knows if it's too soon – and all six of our remaining pears are a-sitting in the fridge.
It's a bit of an experiment in best-practice pear harvesting and ripening, but I hope that it means that when 2014-15 blesses us with more Beurre Boscs (and maybe some Williams) than a sensible person can deal with, we'll know exactly what to do.