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Bored with apples? Seek out some not-so-new varieties of pears. The Seckel is a small, heirloom variety roughly the size of a child’s fist. It’s got a clean, sweet taste that’s not as honey-cloying as some varieties. Best of all, these pears have full flavor when crisp, meaning you don’t need to wait for them to ripen to enjoy. For those who prefer their pears melting soft, try the Magness. This fist-size, golden-green variety was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1968 and is best eaten fully ripe.
How to Buy: Black Rock Orchard (Takoma Park, Penn Quarter, Bethesda, and Dupont markets) will have Seckel pears until Thanksgiving and Magness pears for three to four more weeks. I found Seckels at Twin Springs Fruit Farm, too. All were $2.99/pound.
How to Cook: If you are less than thrilled with the firmness of the Seckel, try poaching them. At the advice of Black Rock Orchard’s David Hochheimer, I poached six pears in two cups of white wine with a healthy pat of butter for 30 to 40 minutes. For a more flavorful result, try adding ginger, cardamom, and black pepper. Once the pears are soft to a knife, remove them from the wine and allow the wine to reduce. The sauce and fruit are excellent alone or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Photo by Phoebe Connelly