One of my favorite trees in my parents’ yard is a gangly-limbed species of pear that my family planted when I was a kid. It was just a sapling when my family dug a hole for its home, and over the years it’s produced more pears than we could ever consume in our lifetimes. Sometimes the tree’s poor limbs are bent so low with fruit, I worry the branches will snap.
Picking a favorite tree on our property isn’t easy. I grew up playing around and beneath the pecan, oak, and citrus trees speckling the three acres. On our four acres across the road, my brother and I spent more than our fair share of springs, summers, autumns, and winters leveraging ourselves into the fort we’d fashioned in a “popcorn” tree.
Of all the trees, who wouldn’t admire the austere beauty of our huge twinned live oaks? They tower over a portion of my parents’ land, their canopy literally blotting out the piercing summer sun. My brother and I often kept ourselves entertained during the hottest part of the day beneath their shade. When hurricanes would buffet our area, I would lie in bed in our rickety trailer and listen to the wind whistle and the huge tree branches creak and wheeze from the gusts.
Though I still vote for the scrappy pear variety, I love the height and history etched as tree rings in the live oaks. They were young once, too, my father says. He should know. In 1945 he was born in a small wood-framed house right next to their thickening trunks. He’s witnessed them grow his entire life. I’d wager that, like the pear tree is for me, those oaks hold a special place in his heart.
When I lived in Texas and made summer road trips out to my folks’ place in Alabama, they’d offer up as many pears as I could load in Cameron’s Honda Civic. Cameron and I would gorge ourselves on baked pears, stewed pears, pear cobbler, and pear turnovers, and we’d share the spoils with our friends.
We live too far to road trip our way from Denver to Baldwin County now, but late summer/almost fall isn’t the same without pear-infused treats. Last weekend I tried out a new quick bread recipe that highlights the melding of summer and autumn: pear-jeweled pumpkin bread. Cameron and I offered it as a birthday gift to his uncle, so we didn’t try the finished product. The leftover batter was darn good, though. Below you’ll find the recipe.
Pear-Jeweled Pumpkin Bread (adapted from a Vegetarian Times recipe)
Makes 1 large loaf
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola.)
1 large egg
1/2 cup low-fat milk (I used 2 percent.)
1/2 15 oz. can unsweetened pumpkin purée
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 15-oz. can pears, drained and diced (I used two Bartlett pears, peeling and dicing the flesh.)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, and coat 8- or 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. (I lined the pan with parchment paper.)
2. Whisk together sugar, flours, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt in bowl. Set aside.
3. Whisk together oil and egg in bowl until smooth. Whisk in milk, then pumpkin and vanilla. Stir flour mixture into oil-egg mixture until just combined. Fold in pears. Spread batter in prepared loaf pan, and back 4 to 55 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.