Black Worcester pear

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'Black Worcester' Pear
Worcester Black Pears - geograph.org.uk - 541843.jpg
'Worcester Black' Pears at Westbury Court Garden. The dull, purple-like skin gives the fruit a black appearance and hence the name
Genus Pyrus
Species Pyrus communis
Cultivar 'Black Worcester'

The Black Worcester pear (also known as 'Parkinson's Warden') is a cultivar of the European Pear (Pyrus communis), it may have come to UK via the Romans, but also has been used in Heraldry and around the city of Worcester. The dark fruit are mainly used for cooking or culinary uses.

History[edit]

It is thought it may have come to the UK, by the Romans and was first mentioned at the Cistercian built Abbey of Warden in Bedfordshire in the 13th century. It may also be linked to the French pear ‘de Livre’.[1] 'Black Worcester' was recorded as being grown by monks at the Abbey as early as 1388. As long keeping fruit, it formed an important part of the winter diet until root-crops were introduced. The fruit is larger than average and the flesh hard and coarse, but is reported to be excellent when stewed. It may also have been used to make perry.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Worcestershire County Council created a 'Fruit Trees for Worcestershire' scheme, in which several hundred young black pear trees were planted.[1][2] The cultivar is a tentatively accepted name by the RHS.[3]

Heraldry[edit]

Worcester Coat of Arms

Pears formed part of the provisions of the troops at Agincourt in 1415, where Worcestershire bowmen carried banners depicting a pear tree laden with fruit. Michael Drayton's poem of the battle, notes “Wor’ster a pear tree laden with its fruit”.[1]

On Queen Elizabeth I's visit to the city of Worcester in August 1575, the city authorities had a black pear fruit-laden tree transplanted to the Foregate from Whystone Farm, in her honour.[4] So admiring was she of the good management that had allowed the fruit to remain unplucked that she ordered “3 pears sable” to be added to the city's coat of arms,[1][4] which probably gave rise to the name "Black Worcester".

Up until 1956, the Worcestershire Yeomanry Cavalry have used an image of the pear blossom for badges.[1] It is still used on the County Council and County Cricket Club badge.[5]

The pear is rarely distinguished in blazon, if not in visual form, from the regular pear when there is a pun to be made on the name "Warden."[6]

Warden Pear[edit]

The name of 'Warden pear' may refer to any one of a number of pear varieties that do not truly ripen and must therefore be cooked to be edible.[7] They are used to make "Warden pies"; "I must have Saffron to colour the Warden Pies" (Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale iv.3). In Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books, edited by Thomas Austin for the Early English Text Society (Original Series, Volume 91), a recipe is given (p. 51) for "Quyncis or Wardouns in past" Also known as 'Parkinson's Warden'.[8]

Description[edit]

The fruits are up to 78mm (3″) wide and 85mm long, and can weigh as much as 260g. The skin is a dark mahogany colour with russet freckles and small areas of rough skin. The flesh is a pale yellow or cream, tinged green under the skin.[1]

They should be picked in October or early November,[7] when it is crisp, hard and gritty then they can be stored until April. This does not refrigeration, hence why made they were so valuable in the past, as they could be used by troops when on long distance travels.[1] They are also sharp and bitter until cooked.[4] There are many old recipes involving the black pears.[5]

They have good disease resistance and some Scab resistance.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "The Worcester Black Pear". worcestershireorchards.co.uk. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  2. ^ Connell, James (23 January 2016). "Worcester goes back to its roots with planting of Black Pear trees in Diglis". worcesternews.co.uk. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  3. ^ "Pyrus communis 'Black Worcester' (C)". rhs.org.uk. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c "Black Worcester Pear". foodsofengland.co.uk. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  5. ^ a b Taylor, C. (12 June 2015). "Worcester and the Black Pear". explorethepast.co.uk. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  6. ^ "A GLOSSARY OF TERMS USED IN HERALDRY by James Parker". Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  7. ^ a b c "Black Worcester pear trees". orangepippintrees.co.uk. Retrieved 8 January 2017. 
  8. ^ Mr Urban The Gentleman's Magazine (London, England), Volume 85, 1799, p. 268, at Google Books