The Abate Fetel Pear
By Adam Calder, Produce Manager
Spring in Iowa also means autumn in Argentina, and that means we get to enjoy a fresh taste of fall even though we are just on the cusp of spring.
The Abate Fetel pear is available domestically in September, so the ones we have in stock now are grown in Argentina. This pear originated at a religious commune in France called Chessy-les-Mines. A priest, or abbot, of the commune by the name of Fetel started breeding pears using local stock in 1865. He transferred to Charentay, another commune in France, and continued breeding pears. The Abate Fetel is the result of his breeding efforts.
This pear is recognizable by its long, tapered neck with a slight curve or hook to it. The skin is smooth with a slightly green/yellow color that can often have a light red blush or mild russeting. The seedbed of the pear is exceptionally soft, so everything except the stem and seeds may be eaten and enjoyed.
The flesh of the pear is often described as velvety, with little to none of the grainy texture pears can sometimes have. The taste is sweet and floral, with notes of honey. This is an excellent pear for fresh eating, and also works great in recipes. Today the pears are grown in California, South America, South Africa, and Italy.
The Abate Fetel is highly prized in Italy, and are cultivated there in the Emelia-Romagna region. This region is a Protected Geographical Indication for this particular cultivar of pear. The geographical indication is a system started in Europe in 1992 which was set up to protect the integrity of regionally grown foods and to eliminate unfair competition from non-genuine products. The pears grown in this northern region of Italy are known for their quality and are highly sought after so therefor rarely distributed outside of Europe.
If you want to check the pear for ripeness, gently press your thumb down on the pear flesh near the stem. Like all pears, the Abate Fetel ripen from the inside out. Since the neck is the thinnest part of the pear, it is also the best place to get closest to the inside of the pear without cutting it open. If the pear is at peak ripeness, then the flesh at the neck should give oh so slightly, like lightly chilled butter or a ripe avocado.