Pears, glorious pears
Brian Self reviews the recently published The Book of Pears by Joan Morgan
There used to be a saying 'Plant pears for your heirs', since this fruit used to take many years to come into fruition. The Book of Pears, by Dr. Joan Morgan, has arrived after two decades of endeavour!
This magnum opus is a companion to The Book of Apples, 1993, and its revised version, The New Book of Apples, 2003, by the same author. It is an ambitious and scholarly work. Following visits to many world research centres, which included some in Iran and Syria, Joan Morgan has carefully distilled a wealth of information on the botany, history and culture of the pear. Some 370 references are quoted from world literature. The book mentions the earliest written records of pear culture in ancient Assyria during the second millennium BC. We are reminded that pears were the stuff of Greek legends and the Ancient Greeks grew several named varieties of pear with the Romans knowing of many more.
Part of the volume is devoted to a directory of over 500 world pear varieties, many of which are grown in the DEFRA National Fruit Collection, Brogdale, Kent. Each entry includes a history, a fruit description for the purpose of identification and notes on edibility. Joan Morgan acknowledges the work of many pomologists who have contributed to knowledge and culture of the pear, including the enlightened work of J. M. S. Potter former Director of the National Fruit Collection.
The book will be appreciated by anybody with an interest in fruit, particularly the commercial and amateur grower, but will also be rewarding reading for the scientist and historian.
All is presented in a readable form. There are 304 pages, 8 narrative chapters, sections on growing and cooking, plus a comprehensive index. The paper is of high quality and the print is clear. It is superbly illustrated: there are 40 watercolour paintings by Elisabeth Dowle, who has received seven Royal Horticultural Society Gold Medals, one of which was awarded for paintings in this book.
The Book of Pears, the Definitive History and Guide to over 500 varieties by Joan Morgan, with paintings by Elisabeth Dowle, pp. 304, 40 full page water colour plates, many colour and black and white illustrations; published by Ebury Press in association with the RHS in the UK and by Chelsea Green Publishing in the USA, 2015; rrp £45; a number offers are available, see below.
The Companion website to The Book of Pears: www.thebookofpears.fruitforum.net displays photographs of nearly all of the 500 varieties of pear described in the book.
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