Though the exact origin of pears is not known, it is likely that they originated in the Caucasus region around 4,000 years ago, from where they spread west to Europe and east to Asia. Until the 16th century, pears were only suitable for use in cooking; since then, the Conference pear has emerged as the most widely grown pear in northwest Europe and today accounts for over 90% of commercial production in the UK.
The Conference pear was first cultivated in 1884 by Thomas Rivers in Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire. It was subsequently named after it was first exhibited at the British National Pear Conference where it was well received both due to its flavour and excellent storage properties.
During the 1990s, radical changes in their cultivation, in terms of pruning and the use of fertilisers, improved the consistency and levels of sugar in the fruit. Today, most Conference pears have sugar levels between 12.5 and 14.5° Brix whereas in the past, the majority of pears only reached about 10 or 11° Brix. Generally speaking, fruit with a sugar level above 12.5° Brix is considered to have excellent flavour and above 11° Brix, sufficient flavour.
Why choose the Conference pear?
The main advantage of Conference pears is that they can be eaten at any stage of ripening, though slightly firmer pears are usually preferable for use in cooking. The fruit begins firm and crisp and, as it ripens, becomes extremely soft, sweet and aromatic. Generally, the lighter green the fruit, the riper it is, although this is no exact science! Due to their rapid transition from hard to soft, pears should be stored at a constant cold temperature throughout the supply chain.
Check our our delicious Conference pear tarte tatin recipe