Comice Pears are large, round pears with a short, stubby neck.
The skin can be yellow with tinges of green, green with a red blush or red. All will have some russet speckles.
The skin is very fragile, and may show bruising, but owing to the tenderness of the skin, that may be just the skin that is bruised, and doesn’t necessarily mean the bruise has gone into the flesh. To protect the skin, Comice Pears are often shipped and sold individually wrapped in paper.
All are basically alike inside: creamy-white with a soft texture, somewhat less gritty than other pears. These pears are highly juicy and will give off a good, noticeable fragrance.
The pears can grow quite large, so they are often used in gift baskets.
The trees are best cross-pollinated by Bosc, Orcas or Shipova pear trees.
Usually eaten raw. Not recommended for cooking or preserving. The pear flesh is so juicy that it loses its shape and breaks down into a mush.
The variety is believed to have originated in the late 1840s near Angiers, France. The red variety occurred as a “sport” (a natural variation happening on a tree); it was noticed in 1960 in Medord, Oregon, USA, and developed.
Literature & Lore
“November’s offering is the du Comice pears to fill the fruit bowl. These are the pears which the French nobility made their favorite at the court of Louis Napoleon. It was in the 1870’s that a French horticulturist brought a few of these trees to southern Oregon where the rolling valleys and snow-capped mountains reminded him of his own southern France. The warm days, the cool nights, the fertile soil he felt would be perfect for the du Comice, and he planted a little acreage staked out along the Old Stage Road. Later he was recalled to France and left his orchard forever, but in the hands of one he had trained to bring the trees to full growth. These pears proved so big and delicious they were in turn shipped back to London and Paris for the tables of the great.” — Paddleford, Clementine (1898 – 1967). Food Flashes Column. Gourmet Magazine. November 1946.
The name “comice” is short for its full name in French, which is “Doyenne du Comice”. Doyenne basically means “Queen Mother” (or the senior woman), and Comice comes from “comice agricole” meaning “agricultural show”. So, in effect, it means prize winner, or Queen of the Hop. You will also see it with Doyenne having an é” at the end, as in “Doyenné du Comice”. Doyenné, (“deanery” in English), means residence of a dean, either a university or church dean, but in this sense it would mean just “Dean”, as in “Dean of the show”. I like “Queen of the Hop” better.