Friday, 10 November 2017

The Queen of Fruits - La France (Western Pear)

At the risk of getting overly fruity - the last post was about the persimmon, "the divine fruit" - I'd like to introduce a second autumn fruit, this time the "La France" (ラ・フランス) pear known as the "Queen of fruits"! Called Claude Blanchet outside of Japan after the man who discovered it, it is actually much less common in its native France where the climate makes it difficult to grow. In contrast, after being introduced in 1903 by the Ministry of Agriculture it has become the best known variety of Western pear in Japan, albeit something of a luxury item due to its high price. The pear does not fully ripen on the tree and further ripens and softens after harvesting so knowing when to eat can be a bit tricky. In order to know when it's ready to eat (tabe-goro =食べ頃) you have to squeeze it gently about a third of the way down and if it gives a little it's ready (don't do this in a shop though!).
Japanese pears (nashi) on sale
In terms of appearance it looks very different to the Japanese pear (nashi =梨) which is round like an apple (see picture). The external appearance of La France is not actually very attractive and like most Japanese fruits (yes, even including grapes!) is peeled before eating. As for taste, it has a very soft extremely juicy "melt-in-your-mouth" texture and a rich aroma. The flyer on top of the box (pictured) describes this aroma in Japanese as roman no kaori (ロマンの香り) in which kaori means "aroma" and roman means...well, actually nobody seems to know what it means! Something luxurious and exotic in the vein of "romantic fragrance" maybe?

Around 80% of La France are grown in Yamagata Prefecture, which is famous for a variety of other fruits too, including cherries and apples. Personally speaking I have a real fondness for Yamagata since that is the place I first lived in Japan when I arrived with hardly a word of Japanese back in 1992. It is also the place where I did the fieldwork for my PhD on international marriage (kokusai kekkon =国際結婚). The other day I was clearing through some old papers and found the original job posting (pictured), for a small English conversation school (eikaiwa gakkō =英会話学校), which I had first spotted in the careers office of my UK university. Apparently it's still going - the first step in a long journey!