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My quest to save the British pear

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Michel Roux Michel Roux | 14:13 UK time, Thursday, 27 October 2011

Pears are one of my all-time favourite fruits to cook with or snack on. I grew up in Kent, the home of the British pear, so I’ve been a big fan since childhood. I remember picking them with my mother, then going back home to make tarte aux poires – delicious!

Pears need our help though. We used to grow hundreds of varieties, but now we only have a few left, which is such a shame. In fact, as you will have learned in the Great British Food Revival, 80 per cent of the pears we eat are imported. This is shocking when we have such wonderful varieties grown on our doorstep.

Michel Roux Jr

Michel Roux Jr.

We used to harvest 40,000 tonnes of pears 15 years ago, but now it's down to 28,000. If we start to insist on British pears we will be able to invest more in the industry and build new orchards, so our growers can keep going.  

But we have got to buy British, otherwise we’ll lose our pears for good; it’s as simple as that. Why not pay the extra few pennies it takes to go British if it means investing in our economy and helping our growers?

Furthermore, British pears definitely taste better than imported pears. They take longer to ripen, which in my opinion gives them a much better flavour.     

British pears will always have a British flag on them, so it’s easy to pick out our heritage varieties when you’re shopping. Otherwise just head to your local farmers' market and you’re bound to find some wonderful British varieties.  

They are one of the most versatile fruits and are fantastic for cooking with, which many people forget. Remember, they don’t have to be ripe, hard pears are just as good to cook. They are the crowning glory in my recipes from the show, comprising a tart with Stilton and pistachios, braised beef and the ultimate soufflé.

We tend to always go for the Conference pear, but we should remember to branch out and try different varieties such as the William Bartlett, Commis and Concorde pears. They all have different qualities to offer. So why not start experimenting? 

I want everyone to find a new appreciation for the pear; it really is such a great fruit. 

So, what do you think? Do you buy British pears? What are your favourite variety for cooking with?

Michel Roux Jr is a presenter for the Great British Food Revival.


  • Comment number 1.

    Lovely recipes for cooked pears on the programme.

    Whilst I appreciate learning on the programme about the new method of ripening pears slowly, I've never found these to be 'ripe and ready for eating', as it claims on the pack. The delicate nature of pears means that it's almost impossible to get them perfect for eating raw. 90% of pears go from too hard to eat raw, to already rotting on the inside by the time they look and feel ready to eat. It's this, above everything else, which stops me buying more pears. I love cooking with them, but I'd love to be able to eat them raw and in perfect condition, even more!

  • Comment number 2.

    As a child I loved pears, we were lucky enough to have friends who had an orchard as part of their rather large garden and we would play there as kids and eat delicious, sweet juicy apples and pears in abundance.
    These days, the pears that we find in the supermarket are rock hard when you buy them, after a couple of days they just suddenly go off. There doesn't seem to be a time when you can actually eat them. The odd one that has been edible has been pretty tasteless and not at all how I remember.
    I would love to go shopping be able to find ripe, ready to eat, British pears.
    Good cause Michael. Good luck.

  • Comment number 3.

    I saw the programme and the problem with insufficient UK pear production appeared to be low prices paid by supermarkets which don't allow enough trees to be brought into production. Is there no way that supermarkets and producers can work constructively to pay a fair price, bring more trees into production and promote Britsh pears to UK consumers who clearly welcome more domestic pears being available to buy?

  • Comment number 4.

    Sadly, until consumers vote on taste and loyalty to British varieties and British producers, by willingly paying a little more, things are unlikely to change. But unfortunately, a majority of the British public still vote with their wallet, by selecting based on price.
    I do realise that, in the current economic climate, there are some shoppers who cannot afford to choose on any other criteria, and that I do completely understand. But most shoppers, who would put down the British pears, and pick up an imported pack because it's 10 pence cheaper, will happily spend £3 a day on a coffee chain coffee without even thinking twice about it.


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