Friday, August 27, 2010

Pears and Lilies as Seasonal Markers

The first ripened pears of 2010 dropped off the tree on August 16, in concert with the opening of the pink lilies growing at the base of the pear tree.

These two plants are good seasonal markers because their annual cycles are entirely in the hands of Mother Nature. The timing of the first zucchini blossom, for example, is affected by when I manage to get the plants into the ground but the pears and the lilies are on their own recognizance.

Last year, the first pears dropped on August 7 and the lilies started blooming on August 11. Thus, I conclude that the summer of 2010 is running about a week behind 2009, at least in our backyard. This is not as drastic as the two to three week delay of ripening that is plaguing the grape growers of our region, according to newspaper reports.

During most of this summer the temperature has hovered in the low 70s under persistent foggy skies. Nonetheless, our little micro climate is evidently not greatly affected, apart from our grumbling that it just doesn't seem like summer. The grumbling stopped entirely earlier this week when local temperatures shot up well over 100 for a few days. Now we are back to low 70s with no complaints!

One thing that is just the same as last year: Blackie the cat showed up to have her portrait taken with the first gathering in of pears. A remarkable coincidence, actually, because it's not like she's always sitting on the bench waiting for the paparazzi. Maybe she feels the pears and the August light set off her dusky fluffiness.

This photo is from August 16 because as soon as I saw the two pears on the ground I picked everything within reach. Pears should not ripen on the tree but should be picked when ready and stored in a cool place.

Here's what the lilies look like now, reaching their peak of bloom and just staring to wilt.

Here are the pears, laid out in the garage. A lot of them are already mushy, perhaps due to the blast of heat this week.

We are learning that the pear season is short and you have to move fast. Pears need to be picked all at once as soon as the first one drops, then stored right away and kept cool. They should be eaten a little bit before they feel ripe. I think they must ripen from the inside out, because when the outside seems perfect they are brown and mushy at the core. The ones that are golden with a rosy blush but still hard to the touch are the ones to go for.

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