There are many different kinds of wild pears in Denmark—from Santa hat–shaped conference pears, to juicy little grey pears, to the perfect-for-preserving Grev Moltke pear. They are all sweet, but wild pears can also bring a surprising and delicate acidity to the table.
Where to Find It
Pear trees prefer dark, well-saturated soils. They can't withstand much wind, and therefore thrive best in bright, open forests, at the edge of woods, and in hedges, copses, and pastures. Now shuttered forest warden houses often still have a clearing where fruit trees grew—and where you might happen upon accidental pears.
Deciduous forests, towns, hedges.
When to Find It
Pear trees bloom in May with white flowers that are a real magnet for insects. The fruits ripen from September and into the beginning of October.
Pears: September, October.
How to Spot It
Pears are pome fruits that grow on thorny trees or large bushes. Wild pears often have thick thorns on their branches, and fruits that are somewhat smaller than cultivated varieties. The shape of the fruit ranges from oval to the familiar pear shape we know. At first the skin is greenish-yellow, but later in the season it can turn redder. The flesh of the fruit is most often firm, even after it ripens. The leaves are long stemmed and round or oval, with fine, serrated edges and distinct little points. Shiny and green on the surface, their underside is a matte pale grey. The flowers are white, faintly scented, and grow together in bunches.
How to Pick It
If the pear doesn't come off of the branch when you pull on it, leave it be—it's not ripe yet. A perfectly picked pear has only a short stem attached—no leaves or twigs. To find out whether the pear is ripe enough, you can cut it down the middle and look at the seeds. The darker they are, the riper the pear is.
On the palate
Wild pears often have a sharper, more acidic flavor than cultivated ones. Their texture can be crisp and crunchy or dull and mealy—and everything in between. Their skin can be tough and thick, or as thin as paper. Some wild pears have well-developed cores that are crammed with seeds—others are almost entirely flesh.
Wild pears smell fresh and sweet.
Pears can of course be eaten raw, but they also do well cooked—especially in sweet dishes. Although their flesh will soften, they won’t become mushy or lose their shape.
Use fresh pears in fruit salads, smoothies, as a topping for porridge, as an filling in pies and cakes, or preserved as a side with cheese. Wild pears also add welcome acidity to sweet preparations like marmalade, jelly, or chutney. Juice pears to make homemade cider or try boiling the peeled fruit in a sugar and vanilla syrup until tender. Serve the poached pears warm with a scoop of sweet woodruff ice cream, or with vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce for the classic dessert Poires Belle Hélène.
Store the pears in bags or containers, but make sure they don't get bruised. Pears poached in syrup can keep for months if refrigerated—or they can be frozen in syrup.
No equivalent substitutions.
Risk of misidentifying the plant
There is no risk of mistaking the plant for another dangerous or undesirable plant. In some cases, however, they may be confused with wild apples.