Top chef-quality fruit and veg wholesaler Natoora is always on the hunt for la crème de la crème, working closely with small growers to support sustainable agriculture. When it comes to French Williams pears, it’s not one but two they have to offer!
A little bit of history
Hailing from China, the cultivation of pears is believed to have started in prehistoric times, no less. The Romans were also great fans of this juicy fruit and helped develop it in Europe.
But time to focus on the Williams pear. Its full name ‘Williams Bon Chrétien’ is a fruitful collaboration between both sides of the Channel. Let’s start with ‘Bon Chrétien’, meaning ‘Good Christian’ in French: in the 15th century, St Francis of Paola is said to have gifted King Louis XI of France a pear seed when he came to visit him on his deathbed. It then later made an appearance in England at the end of the 17th century, where it was popularised by a gardener named Williams. Voilà! Centuries of cultivation followed, and the Williams pear as we know it today is the star of French orchards!
What you need to know
In France, Williams pears are mainly grown in Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur, Rhône-Alpes and Centre-Val de Loire. 40,000 tons were produced in 2018 — accounting for 14.7% of the European volumes according to FranceAgriMer.
Medium-sized and bell-shaped, their skin turns from pale green to golden as they ripen. Their flesh is juicy, sweet and smooth, making them a perfect all-rounder. Low in calories and high in antioxidants and fibres, it’s always the healthy choice!
How they’re sourced
The Natoora team brings in their Williams pears from Gambais in the Ile-de-France region, where they’re produced by very well-regarded arborist Fabien Vassout. His family has been looking after their large orchards since the 19th century, and pivoted towards a minimal intervention approach since the 1950’s, stopping all spraying and weeding. The fruits are picked by hand on the tree and stored in wooden crates — 500-600 tons a year, all pear varieties taken together.
With their thin skin and deliciously grainy texture, his heritage white and red Williams pears are only available over a short season, from September to October.
How to store them
Pears are fragile fruits, but they can keep for a while stored in a dark place at room temperature.
How to serve them
Williams pears are incredibly versatile: they work well in both sweet and savoury dishes, raw or cooked.
Pear and blue cheese remains a foolproof match: at Natoora’s Portobello café, the Williams pears are served on toast with gorgonzola dolce. You could also cut them up with roquefort and walnuts following our recipe!
As they hold their shape, they are great cooking material too: use our Williams pear and saffron chutney recipe to brighten up your cheese platter, or spread into your French cheese toastie!
Where to find them?
Best news is, no need to be a chef to order from Natoora! There are plenty of options out there to stock up on their incredible produce: online via their app or Ocado, in their London stores or in select Whole Foods and Waitrose branches.