It's been official for almost a year - the piquant pear is Oregon's state fruit.
A fitting title in light of the fact that pears are the state's largest fruit crop, and that 84 percent of the nation's pears come from Oregon and Washington.
According to the Pear Bureau Northwest, Oregon produces 140 million pounds of Bartlett pears annually, plus another 264 million pounds of Anjou, Bosc and Comice pears. That's a lot of pears.
The word in the orchard is that this year's crop is just about ready to pick.
Pears are picked mature but unripe, and mellow in color from green to yellow as they ripen. They ripen from the inside out, so the best way to check for ripeness is to press gently near the stem with your fingernail. When it gives to gentle pressure it is juicy and ripe - ready to eat.
If you need to ripen pears in a hurry you can place them in a paper bag. Be sure to check them daily so they don't become overripe. I like to leave them out in a bowl with apples and bananas to speed the ripening process. When they have ripened as far as you like, eat them, or put them in the refrigerator to inhibit further ripening.
The pears grown in Oregon - Bartlett, Bosc, Anjou and Comice - all have unique tastes and textures. As they become available, buy one or two of each and stage a taste test of the piquant beauties.
Bosc pears are firmer and better for poaching, baking and grilling. They hold their shape better due to their dense flesh. Boscs have an interesting spicy taste to them.
All pears are juicy and sweet, but Comice have a rich sweetness to them. Anjou pears are described as having a clean sweetness.
The competition for state fruit must have been keen, considering peaches and their nectarous juice and the marvelous sun-warmed flavor of blackberries. We've enjoyed some extraordinary tastes this summer.
Remember how distinctive a pear is? Add to that flavor a wedge of Rogue River blue cheese and a crisp cool glass of Chardonnay. How could pears be anything but luscious?
Rogue River Bleu Cheese, Pears and Walnuts on Baguette
Makes 4 sandwiches
2 12-inch baguettes
2 ripe pears, sliced thinly
½ cup walnuts
12 ounces Rogue River blue cheese
Cut the baguette in half lengthwise and then in half widthwise (you now have four top and four bottom slices).
Distribute pear slices evenly over the four bottom slices of bread. Crumble walnut pieces evenly over pears. Crumble blue cheese over the pear-walnut combination. Place top half of bread on each of the bottom halves. Wrap in foil and place in a 350-degree oven for three to five minutes, or until cheese melts.
Alternatively, you could place the wrapped filled baguettes on the hot barbecue for five or more minutes, until cheese melts.
Adapted from Epicurious.com
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski held a signing ceremony naming pears as Oregon's official fruit on Aug. 23, 2005.
Randall welcomes your questions and food research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at brandall@lakeoswe