Most people have never had a good Asian pear, and Jeff Rieger and Laurence Hauben of Penryn Orchard Specialties are bringing an end to this tendency. Penryn Orchard Specialties is a small producer of specialty fruit, and grow a wide variety of delicious Asian pears. Most commercial Asian pear growers pick the fruit when it is still green. Jeff and Laurence are very hands-on farmers and color pick their fruit, meaning they let all of their fruit ripen on the tree and do not pick it until the color of the fruit indicates that it is fully ripe. They visit their trees every day.
Jeff and Laurence grow nine varieties of Asian pears. The kosui is the first of the season and does not brown when sliced. The Shinseki has a yellow skin and is sweet and crunchy. The 20th century is juicy, sweet and slightly tart with citrus overtones. The industry standard that most people are familiar with is the hosui, however, and Jeff and Laurence allow theirs to ripen longer in order to gain a higher sugar content. The kikusui, like the 20th century, is juicy, sweet and tart. They grow two pear-shaped, Chinese varieties, the yali and tsuli, that are crisp, juicy and refreshing. The chojuro is a Japanese variety with brownish orange skin that tastes like butterscotch. The shinko is another Japanese variety that comes later in the season and is incredible for roasting. Jeff and Laurence refer to Asian pears as “bachelor fruit” because they keep for two months in the refrigerator. They also grow eight varieties of persimmons, including rare chocolate flesh persimmons, five varieties of apples, and placer gold mountain mandarins. People are so crazy for Jeff and Laurence’s figs that you need to get them right as the market opens because they will sell out.
Penryn Orchard Specialties will be offering hoshigaki classes. Hoshigaki translates to “dried persimmon” and is the Japanese tradition of drying persimmons. The process begins with a whole, firm hachiya persimmon. The persimmon is peeled and trimmed, hung over a bamboo pole and massaged daily over the course of four weeks. As the persimmon finishes, the fructose comes to the surface and looks like it has been dipped in powdered sugar and tastes sweet as candy. The process is very time-consuming, and if not massaged frequently, the persimmon will be dry on the outside and goopy on the inside. In the class, Jeff and Laurence will teach you how to do hoshigaki at home. The class is hands-on and includes a flat of persimmons, all necessary materials, written instructions, as well as online support. Hoshigaki is also a fun activity to do with children, because at the end they get a treat they made themselves. Visit www.penrynorchardspecialties.com for more information and be sure to say hello to Jeff and Laurence at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers’ Market.