A comice pear is a medium to large sized, greenish skinned fruit with a red tinge and a wonderful fragrance. A marvelous sweet flavor and a melt-in-the-mouth consistency make this pear one of the most popular additions to holiday fruit baskets and gift boxes. It is native to the Loire Valley in France but are now grown in other parts of Europe and North America. Comice pears are considered the best of all pear varieties, although they do have certain drawbacks.
Unlike other pears such as Bartlett and Bosc, comice pears cannot be used for cooking because they are far too juicy. The skin also bruises very easily, which makes handling and transporting them difficult. Any bruising of the skin is usually superficial, however, and does not damage the inner flesh. The flesh is slow to turn brown as well, which makes them a good choice for salads and fruit platters. They are ripe and ready to eat when the flesh at the bottom of the stem gives to slight pressure.
The comice pear is best eaten by hand as a low fat, healthy snack or may be made into jams, jellies, and juice. Their nutritional qualities are often overlooked, but comice pears are very high in fiber as well as vitamin C. They are complemented well by soft cheeses such as Brie or Camembert.
Comice pear trees can be grown in many areas, although they will not tolerate very cold climates. They are one of the few fruit trees that will live in wet soil, but they prefer rich, well drained ground. The trees are very prone to damage from insects; pesticide use, although undesirable, is often necessary for them to produce undamaged fruit. Branches of these trees tend to grow upright and need to be pruned to correct this habit. Like other pear varieties, the comice pear is sterile, and cross pollination with another pear type is needed to bear fruit.
The trees are not widely available and are seen as a specialty product. They can be found at some garden centers and in catalogs, although it may be best to purchase a tree from a nursery nearby when possible to prevent shipping damage. The cost can also be prohibitive because the comice pear is considered an elite fruit and this of course reflects in the price. The young trees will not produce fruit for between three to three years. The fruit is usually ripe and ready to be picked in mid-August.