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The Art of Asian Pears

<empty 9/23/2009        

It’s my humble opinion that Asian Pears are not only one of the tastiest of all fall fruit treats but also one of the most beautiful. The flavor of the different Asian Pear varieties plays in your mouth across butterscotch, caramel, vanilla, and even a hint of rum (if let ripen a bit too far), while the russetted yellows and browns (their color and texture vary) are nicely accented in both look and feel by a unique dimpling that makes this pear a living piece of art. I think the Hosui Pear (introduced in Japan in 1972 and now a common variety in California) is one of the most beautiful, while the Twentieth Century Pear (introduced in Japan in 1898 and featured in FruitGuys west coast boxes last week) is one of the tastiest. While there are many varieties of Asian Pear, I prefer the Twentieth Century for the flavor ride: it changes in taste as you eat the fruit closer to the core. I like to put this pear in the refrigerator and eat it cold on hot days—it tastes like a natural sorbet when chilled.

Our East Coast grower of Asian pears, Joel Spira, is an inventor/farmer who understands the connection between art and fruit. Spira invented the electronic dimmer switch and founded Lutron Electronics. He was introduced to these wonderful fruits on a trip to Japan in 1973 and decided to grow them when he returned home to Pennsylvania. His farm, Subarashii Kudamono (whose name translates to “wonderful fruit”), is located in Lehigh Valley in Coopersberg, PA. His website reflects his respect for the beauty and simplicity of these pears. Let’s face it you have to give credit to any farm that has a Haiku on its website:

Peaceful and Serene,
the orchard's quiet beauty,
I serve to my guests.

My sister Erin, who runs our east coast operation, says it best: "Cool man, cool." (Two snaps all around.) Check out his site at www.wonderfulfruit.com.

Asian pears on the west coast are from our good friend, farmer Torrey Olsen in Sebastopol (Sonoma County), who I’ve written a great deal about over the years. He has a thriving U-Pick business for those who are in Northern California and want to see what growing Asian Pears is all about. You can check out his site at www.gabrielfarm.com.

To see what variety of Asian Pear we have in your box this week, check out what’s in your mix here.

Enjoy and be fruitful!

- Chris Mittelstaedt

Farm Profile: Lehman’s Orchard (Michigan)

Steve Lecklider wasn't always a farmer, he was a professional clarinet musician playing classical music in South Bend, Indiana. Now he runs Lehman's Orchard with his parents, both retired teachers. “We've all left the farm and then come back,” said Steve, the third generation in his family to run the orchard. Their farm in Niles, Michigan (Berrien County) grows generous apples, pears, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, wine grapes, and tomatoes. His grandfather Ralph Lehman started the farm in 1929. Such a diverse farm in a four-season area requires a lot of juggling. “It's just like in music - you gotta see it all the way through,” said Steve. “You can't just show up at the practice and not the performance.”

Niles is located in the lower palm of hand-shaped Michigan along the St. Joseph River. In that region September was just as warm as August which meant the peaches stayed late and the apples were right on time. FruitGuys central region customers will see some of Lehmans’ Honey Crisp, Gala, and Macoun apples in the coming weeks.

The Lehmans are known for their tart cherries and long-established You-Pick trade. They employ sustainable and organic orchard practices such as high-density tree planting, intercropping, and Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Planting dwarf trees close together conserves water and lets light reach other crops that are planted between the rows, like tomatoes growing among the peaches or strawberries tucked in with the grapes. Steve also places a reflective fabric under the trees during ripening which adds warmth and light and discourages certain pests. This one organic IPM method means pesticides don't need to be used.

In their dried fruit business, they pit their famous cherries on site and mix them with other regional fruits to create dried fruit mixes. “Instead of using raisins we use cranberries, that's a mid-west thing,” said Steve. Their “Michigan Mix” of cranberries, unsulphered apples, pecans, and cherries is a big seller, as well as the “Apple-Crunch” and “Healthy Mix.”

We look forward to seasons of blossoms and berries, and baskets of peaches and pears. While farmer Steve may no longer have time to play, we can be content with some Brahms sonatas coming from the truck's radio.

- Heidi Lewis

Flu Season Tips

The kids are back to school, marking the beginning of flu season on the playground and in the office. The advent of the H1N1 (swine) flu last year has increased most people’s awareness (and fear) of the influenza virus aka the flu. Viruses are spread person-to-person through airborne contact (coughs and sneezes) and physical contact (close contact and/or touching infected items and then touching your face). Here are some tips and resources to keep you and your workplace healthier this flu season.

-Wash your hands often. Always wash before eating and after sneezing, coughing, going to the restroom, or shaking hands.  Most people do not wash their hands correctly. Here’s how: Wet hands. Use soap and lather for 15 seconds. Rinse. Towel or air dry hands. Use towel to turn off faucet. If water is not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% ethylalcohol (that’s what kills the germs), or anti-microbial towelettes.

-Cover your mouth: if you sneeze or cough, do so in a tissue or into your elbow or shirtsleeve. This prevents germs from spreading to other people.

-Avoid touching your face: your nose, mouth, and eyes are easy entry-points for viruses to enter your body from your hands. Try not to touch them and make sure you always wash your hands before you do.

-Clean surface areas: wipe down conference tables and airplane armrests and trays with disinfecting wipes before use.

-Flu vaccine: More than 30,000 people still die in the United States each year from the seasonal flu. Get vaccinated by your doctor or at a local pharmacy such as Walgreen’s, CVS pharmacies, Target, or Safeway. Check their websites for dates of flu shot clinics. Influenza vaccines do contain the preservative thimerosal, which contains ethylmercury. While thimerosal has been used in most vaccines since the 1930s, its use in childhood vaccines was discontinued in 1999. If you are concerned about thimerosal, you can learn more about it on the CDC website. There are limited supplies of influenza vaccine available without thimerosal. Contact your physician to see if it is available.

-Stay Home: if you get sick, stay home until you have been fever-free for at least 24 hours. Flu symptoms vary but may include fever, cough, chills, sore throat, body aches, and fatigue. Don’t get everybody at work sick too. Drinks lots of fluids and rest.

- Pia Hinckle

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As part of your FruitGuys subscription, we provide you and your employees online access to UC Berkeley's Wellness Letter, the newsletter of nutrition, fitness and self-care. It translates leading-edge research into practical advice for daily living--at home, at work, while exercising, shopping, or cooking.

Highlight from the September Wellness Letter:
That’s Exertainment

“Exergaming” or “exertainment” is the latest video game craze, which allows you to play sports “virtually” and perform other activities using new interactive computer technology. You can, for example, box, bowl, play tennis, shoot hoops, snowboard, even walk a tightrope, all from the comfort of your living room. Several companies make these active gaming systems, but the most popular is Nintendo Wii. Using a hand-held controller with digital motion sensors, you simulate the movements needed to perform the activity, as an onscreen character depicts your movement in real time. It sounds invigorating, but is it real exercise or just fun and games?

Get great health tips and more in the Berkeley Wellness Letter. The password for September is lucky.


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