Food Facts & Lore

Of Pears

We came across a little gem of a book recently, and a passage about pears jumped at us. It is titled Darwin and the Barnacle. Author Rebecca Stott conveys the story of a little creature that totally captured Darwin’s scientific mind and led him to the conclusions we are all familiar with today. It is truly a fascinating read and we highly recommend it.

What does this have to do with our weekly food fact? You ask. Well, there is much focus on genetically modified foods these days, but we often forget that foods have been modified for thousands of years. The difference is, they used natural means back then. This little blog is a place for lighthearted observation, not for debate. We just thought you might enjoy this most informative excerpt having to do with pears.

“Hadn’t Pliny complained about the taste of pears in Ancient Rome? What poor stock the early wild ancestors of these splendid trees then have been? But since Pliny’s disappointing bite, thousands of years of French, British and Flemish skill throughout the cultivated world had bred scores of varieties – thousands of years and long lines of pear-tree descent, each new cross-pollination enhancing shape, taste, colour, smell… And if Pliny were to walk this way, what would he say to the exquisite melting of sweet white nineteenth-century pear flesh? Honey, cinnamon, butter, sugar – tastes nurtured by breeders and orchardmen shaping nature in flowers and kitchen gardens like Darwin’s own, improving and modifying without end. What might cultivated pears taste like in three hundred years with yet greater improvements in agriculture and fertilization?”

Oh, what would both Darwin and Pliny think about our modern-day food production?

(Pliny the Elder. 23 AD – 79 AD. Author, natural philosopher and army commander of the early Roman Empire)

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