The pear tree
By CHRISTINE TAILER
It was the end of the season. The grass had stopped growing, and the night air was crisp. The buckeye leaves had begun to fall, and one day when Greg and I were out and about, we decided to stop by the discount store to see what already discounted items might be on sale.
Just outside the sliding entrance door we noticed a scraggily tree, looking rather homeless and forlorn. We paused for a closer inspection.
It was marked as a pear, but it certainly appeared to be half dead. Its leaves were curled and falling off. And it was amazingly tall and skinny, but Greg suggested that we take it home. I was doubtful, but the price was right, so we loaded it into the back of the truck drove home.
We dug a hole at the end of the end of our carefully selected heirloom orchard and set the tree in place, not even taking the time to stake it against the winter winds. We certainly did not carry any buckets of water out to it after that first day of planting. As the snow fell and winter howled up and down the creek valley, I pretty much forgot about it – until spring.
That first summer came and went and the little tree doubled in height and set out thin branches all along its length. The next summer it again doubled in height. Its trunk thickened, and its branches grew stronger.
Summers passed and by the fifth summer, it was easily 30 feet tall. We laughed at our orphaned tree, now the biggest tree in the orchard.
And then we abruptly stopped laughing as we realized that it was not only tall, but had grown bushy and was actually rather beautiful. On closer inspection, we realized that it was actually setting fruit, and we were amazed and thrilled. We watched as over the summer the pears grew larger and as fall neared, I realized that I had better read up on how to harvest the fruit.
I learned that I should harvest the pears before they were fully ripe by gently lifting up the fruit. If the still hard fruit broke easily from the branch, it was ready for picking. In this manner, I picked a half basket full, and then, as I had read, I set them in the refrigerator to chill. After two days, I took them out and lined them up on the kitchen counter so they could soften and ripen. Then, I waited and waited and waited.
Days passed, then a week, and the fruit was still hard. I returned to my learning and tried the technique of putting the fruit into a paper bag. Still to no avail. The pears remained as hard as Major League baseballs. Then one day, as Greg was out mowing the orchard, he passed under the tree, reached up and picked a pear. The light brown fruit came loose easily and felt soft in his hand. He cautiously bit into it. Deliciousness spread into every pore of his body.
Several years have since passed, and the trunk of the tree is now a good ten inches in diameter. The tree is still about 30 feet tall and thankfully seems to have stopped growing taller. We can stand on tip-toes to pick the lower fruit, but Greg has to raise me up in the backhoe’s front-end loader to reach the higher fruit.
In all honesty, I am not quite sure how to describe it. A little, no-name stick of a tree that should really not have survived, now gives us the best fruit in the orchard. Each pear is absolutely delightful.
So my dilemma now is what to do with this perfectly bountiful harvest? Perhaps next week I will try to boil down some pear butter – if we can manage not to eat them all ahead of time.