I think it was his description of the frost air settling at the bottom of the pear orchard that was the final hook for me. How, when this happens, they steal silently from their homes in the pre-dawn hours to coddle the trees. They start up the modern day windmills to diffuse the cold air and then, they spread silently throughout the orchard. Crouching down, they light the small heaters, spaced every few trees, which soon radiate a warmth like a down comforter protecting each tree on the chilly night.
What I wouldn’t give to see this from up the hill. The gentle glow, the frost air, the dark sky, the silhouettes of the trees. Seems like there should be cowbells tinkling in the distance.
About a week ago, I spent four days in Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley with 12 other food and wine writers touring Harry and David, an Oregon-based fruit and food gift company started over 75 years ago. Matt Borman, Director of Orchards, for Harry and David, spent Thursday morning modestly telling us how much care and attention goes into growing their renowned Royal Riviera comice pears.
From the way the pears are quickly flicked from their branches to preserve the stems, to the way they are stacked sideways in the “buckets,” like a zipper, to prevent bruising. From the way the workers who harvest their pears are housed and paid to the meals they are fed alongside Harry and David employees. From the heaters they light on cold nights to the puffer pheromone boxes they hang in the trees confusing the threatening codling moth and sending him into a fatal frenzy to find his one true love like a character in a Shakespeare tragedy. A fitting end to a moth here in the land of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Clearly, I’m smitten.
Tucked in and around our visit to the orchards, we sniffed our way through Harry and David’s “chocolate factory,” which is headed up by a third-generation candy-maker named, Charlie. Yes, Charlie. We marched into the “gift factory” to be schooled in the art of gift basket assembly. We were wined and dined at local favorites like Ashland’s Peerless Restaurant and Jacksonville’s Déjà Vu Bistro. We arose each morning to find homemade pastries and fresh coffee in the charming kitchen of Jacksonville’s Magnolia Inn. We were treated to an 8-course meal prepared by Harry and David’s Chef Tim. Each course paired with a preview of a new Harry and David wine due out early next year.
For all of this we are truly grateful; however, I believe one particular meal stands out in our minds. The evening we arrived, our spectacular host for the trip, Sandy Coughlin author of the inspiring blog, Reluctant Entertainer, invited us all over for dinner. She shared a meal, her home, and her family with us. It’s one thing to host 12 people for dinner, and it’s quite another when those 12 people are food and wine writers and photographers.
I’m home now, but I feel like I left a little bit of myself in the luminous Rogue River Valley and especially in the pear orchard.
I know that when the foggy, frost air moves into my own valley, my thoughts will turn to the Harry and David orchard with the warm glow and I’ll say a word of thanks for those folks who care for the land from which we all eat.
Brenda-A Farm Girl’s Dabbles, moi, Brian-A Thought for Food, Sandy-Reluctant Entertainer, Heather-Farmgirl Gourmet, Dara-Cookin’ Canuck, Matt-A Good Time with Wine, Gaby-What’s Gaby Cooking, Julie-PB Fingers, Aggie-Aggie’s Kitchen, an Maggie-Three Many Cooks (Not pictured: the lovely Sommer-A Spicy Perspective, and talented Kelly-Martha Stewart Living)
Thank you to Sandy, my 12 other talented cohorts pictured above (all with inspiring websites of their own…click on their names to stop by their sites,) and all of the incredible folks at Harry and David for sponsoring this trip and educating me about their fabulous company. I was not paid for this opportunity and all opinions are, of course, my own.
Being the generous folks they are, Harry and David are giving away one of their Classic Applegate Gift Baskets filled with their exquisite pears so one of you can have a little taste of the Rogue Valley.
Should you be interested, leave me a comment by Friday, 10/26/12, at midnight PST saying something like, “Throw my hat in the ring.” or “Oregon ROCKS!” (To do so click on the green comments link at the top or bottom of this post, enter your name, email address – which I never share – and message, type in the scrambled letters and hit Post Comment.) I’ll draw a name and announce the winner at the beginning of next week.
Cheers, my friends!
PS: Should you be looking for something to make with pears, here’s a shameless plug (the tie-in was too good) for my latest AMNW appearance demonstrating my Chicken with Pears, Sweet Onions, and White Wine. Recipe in the latest 1859 Oregon’s Magazine or on the AMNW website.