This ancient variety of pear from the county of Hanyuan, particularly from the surroundings of the city of Ya’an, in Sichuan, is also called white pear and is one of the many varieties of pears of this area. Here this fruit grows particularly well, thanks to the wide atmospheric temperature range between day and night and the good exposure to the sun. It belongs to the Pyrus Pyrifolia species, called nashi in the West and sha-li in China. It is native of the northern and central regions of China, like at least seven other pear species.
Sichuan, particularly the Hanyuan county, is the main pear producer in the country, and China is the largest pear producer in the world.
The Hanyuan snow pear is very large (each fruit weighs about 500 g), sweet and juicy. The skin is thin and the core is quite large.
Trees blossom in February of the Chinese lunar calendar, they sprout in March and yield ripe pears in August, when they are harvested by hand.
Snow pears date back to the time of the Tang dinasty (about one thousand years ago) A legend of the time, told by the elderly in the city of Fuzhuang, tells that one year the pear trees didn’t blossom well and the harvest was poor. The following year, the goddess of pear blossoms came to the county of Hanyuan, saw the blossoms and liked them. She gently swang one sleeve of her dress and a handful of pear blossoms turned into a rain of blossoms falling from the sky. The farmers thanked her and that year the harvest was richer than ever before. To pay homage to the goddess, the fruit growers of Hanyuan built a sculpture of the goddess of pear blossoms and each year they pray for a good harvest.
There are still over one thousand hectares of orchards in the small villages of Fuzhuang and Jiuxiang. The oldest tree is 700 years old. Unfortunately, due to marked difficulties, less and and less fruit growers plant this variety. In fact, the trend is to remove the old trees and replace them with more recent varieties.
In the past, the very poor local farmers used to make a compote during the harvest period.
To make this white pear compote, which is still produced, the pears are cleaned and put into a pot with abundant water. They are cooked slowly for a long time, until they take on a sticky texture. This sort of syrup was eaten in summer and spring. Snow pears are also used in another traditional recipe: they are peeled and cut in half. The core is removed and the space left is filled with sugar crystals. Finally, the pears are steamed. Once the sugar has melted, it is removed and the pear is eaten after cutting it into pieces. This recipe helps to treat coughs.