Pear





The Pear, also called Pyrrie, belongs to the same natural order of

plants (the Rosacoe) as the Apple. It is [420] sometimes called

the Pyerie, and when wild is so hard and austere as to bear the name

of Choke-pear. It grows wild in Britain, and abundantly in France

and Germany. The Barland Pear, which was chiefly cultivated in the

seventeenth century, still retains its health and vigour, the

identical trees in Herefordshire which then supplied excellent

liquor, continuing to do so in this, the nineteenth century.



This fruit caused the death of Drusus, a son of the Roman Emperor

Claudius, who caught in his mouth a Pear thrown into the air, and

by mischance attempted to swallow it, but the Pear was so

extremely hard that it stuck in his throat, and choked him.



Pears gathered from gardens near old monasteries were formerly

held in the highest repute for flavour, and it was noted that the trees

which bore them continued fruitful for a great number of years. The

secret cause seems to have been, not the holy water with which the

trees were formally christened, but the fact that the sagacious monks

had planted them upon a layer of stones so as to prevent the roots

from penetrating deep into the ground, and so as thus to ensure their

proper drainage.



The cellular tissue of which a Pear is composed differs from that of

the apple in containing minute stony concretions which make it, in

many varieties of the fruit, bite short and crisp; and its specific

gravity is therefore greater than that of the apple, so much so that by

taking a cube of each of equal size, that of the Pear will sink when

thrown into a vessel of water, while that of the apple will float. The

wood of the wild Pear is strong, and readily stained black, so as to

look like ebony. It is much employed by wood-engravers. Gerard

says it serveth to be cut [421] up into many kinds of moulds; not

only such fruits as those seen in my Herbal are made of, but also

many sorts of pretty toies for coifes, breast plates, and such like;

used among our English gentlewomen.



The good old black Pear of Worcester is represented in the civic

arms, or rather in the second of the two shields belonging to the

faithful city; Argent, a fesse between three Pears, sable. The date of

this shield coincides with that of the visit of Queen Elizabeth to

Worcester.



Virgil names three kinds of Pears which he received as a present

from Cato:--



Nec surculus idem,

Crustaneis, Syriisque pyris, gravibusque volemis.



The two first of these were Bergamots and Pounder Pears, whilst the

last-named was called a volemus, because large enough to fill the

hollow of the hand, (vola).



Mural paintings which have been disclosed at Pompeii represent the

Pear tree and its fruit. In Pliny's time there were proud Pears, so

called because they ripened early, and would not keep; and winter

pears for baking, etc. Again, in the time of Henry the Eighth, a

warden Pear, so named (Anglo-Saxon wearden) from its

property of long keeping, was commonly cultivated.



Her cheek was like the Catherine Pear,

The side that's next the sun,



says one of our old poets concerning a small fruit seen often

now-a-days in our London streets, handsome, but hard, and

ill-flavoured.



The special taste of Pears is chemically due for the most part to their

containing amylacetate; and a [422] solution of this substance in

spirit is artificially prepared for making essence of Jargonelle Pears,

as used for flavouring Pear drops and other sweetmeats. The acetate

amyl is a compound ether got from vinegar and potato oil. Pears

contain also malic acid, pectose, gum, sugar, and albumen, with

mineral matter, cellulose, and water. Gerard says wine made of

the juice of Pears, called in English, Perry, purgeth those that

are not accustomed to drinke thereof, especially when it is new;

notwithstanding, it is as wholesome a drink (being taken in small

quantity) as wine; it comforteth and warmeth the stomacke, and

causeth good digestion.



Perry contains about one per cent. alcohol over cider, and a slightly

larger proportion of malic acid, so that it is rather more stimulating,

and somewhat better calculated to produce the healthful effects of

vegetable acids in the economy. How eminently beneficial fruits of

such sort are when ripe and sound, even to persons out of health, is

but little understood, though happily the British public is growing

wiser to-day in this respect. For instance, it has been lately

discovered that there is present in the juice of the Pine-apple a

vegetable digestive ferment, which, in its action, imitates almost

identically the gastric juices of the stomach; and a demand for

Bananas is developing rapidly in London since their wholesome

virtues have become generally recognised. It is a remarkable fact

that the epidemics of yellow fever in New Orleans have declined in

virulence almost incredibly since the Banana began to be eaten there

in considerable quantities. If a paste of its ripe pulp dried in the

sun be made with spice, and sugar, this will keep well for years.



At Godstone, as is related in Bray's Survey, the water [423] from a

well sunk close to a wild Pear tree (which bore fruit as hard as iron)

proved so curative of gout, that large quantities of it were sent to

London and sold there at the rate of sixpence a quart. Pears were

deemed by the Romans an antidote to poisonous fungi; and for this

reason, which subsequent experience has confirmed, Perry is still

reckoned the best thing to be taken after eating freely of

mushrooms, as also Pear stalks cooked therewith.



There is an old Continental saying: Pome, pere, ed noce guastano

la voce--Apples, pears, and nuts spoil the voice, And an ancient

rhymed distich says:--



For the cough take Judas eare,

With the parynge of a pear;

And drynke them without feare,

If ye will have remedy.



All Pears are cold, and have a binding quality, with an earthy

substance in their composition.



It should be noted that Pears dried in the oven, and kept without

syrup, will remain quite good, and eatable for a year or more.



Most Pears depend on birds for the dispersion of their seeds, but one

striking variety prefers to attract bees, and the larger insects for

cross-fertilization, and it has therefore assumed brilliant crimson

petals of a broadly expanded sort, instead of bearing a succulent

edible fruit, This is the highly ornamental Pyrus Japonica, which

may so often be seen trained on the sunny walls of cottages.





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