1883 Magazine

In the land surrounding the walled Portuguese town of Obidos, the hum of voices of pear pickers drifts through the hot air, interspersing the soft rustling of leaves.

The landscape is made up of row-upon-row of verdant trees in which fruit nestle: pears of smooth light green skin, gradually turning to yellow as they ripen. It’s harvest season in the land of the Rocha pear.

The Rocha pear’s story began in 1836, when a farmer named Pedro Antonio Rocha discovered a different type of pear tree and realised that it produced fruit of high quality. He shared grafts of the tree with his neighbours, which lead to the propagation of this new variety.

Since then, the Rocha pear has really come into its own: its prominence has been recognized by the European Union, and it was awarded the PDO (protected designation of origin) title in 2003. As a result, Portugal is now the 5th largest pear producer in Europe, with a production area of around 11,000 hectares that spans across the country. Representing 99% of pear orchards, the farming of the Rocha variety is concentrated predominantly in the west. Here, the countryside that is held between the Atlantic and the mountain provides climate conditions that are particularly favourable for cultivating pears.

The fruit is part of an annual cycle: having spent the autumn and winter at rest, the Rocha pear trees blossom, unfurling their white petals across the country during the spring. Come August, once the fruit has grown and ripened, the pears can be harvested, sorted and packed ready to be exported across Europe. Besides being of high quality, the Rocha pear stands out for it’s long shelf life which allows it to be stored for months after the harvest season has come to an end.

As well as being a key product for Portuguese agricultural export, Rocha pears have a significant place in Portuguese cuisine. The sweet, grainy white flesh is paired with meat, just as it often serves as the main ingredient for decadent desserts – Portugal being famous for its sugary fare - or as the basis for aromatic liqueurs. Quite simply put: biting into a Rocha pear gives you a taste of Portugal.

Words by Ginger Clark - @gingerroseclark
Film by Théo Clark - www.theo-clark.com

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