There’s a new kid on the chopping block that’s tipped to redefine how Australians perceive pears. The Rico Pear boasts a striking blush colour and a surprising crunch. Marketing experts have described it as “unlike anything you’ve tasted before”.
So, if you thought maybe pears had fallen out of favour, there’s a team of people working hard to change your mind. One of those is Ian Goodwin, a research leader at Agriculture Victoria’s Tatura SmartFarm, and he is here to explain all.
A SmartFarm is essentially a research institute packed with experimental orchards. It is where the Rico Pear was created. The objective was to produce a unique Australian pear that could outperform other new varieties coming out of foreign countries.
“As part of that breeding program, various crosses were made that involved older type cultivars. For example, we had over 65,000 crosses that were actually made, then the seed was planted, and the tree was grown. From that, you go through a whole process of which ones have got the attributes in terms of fruit quality,” Ian explains. It’s been a huge job, but Rico was the success story.
A different variety
This variety looks and tastes different. One side is green, the other is blush coloured. It can also be eaten crisp, like an apple, or you can wait until it softens into a melting flesh.
“It’s really smooth. It doesn’t have a lot of grit cells in it. A buttery-type texture,” he says.
The fact it can be eaten crunchy is a game-changer for people who’ve perhaps been avoiding pears. “Not the old-fashioned pear that is soft and you put it in the lunchbox or backpack and guess what happens!” he laughs.
“When we’ve grown some of these pears, I’ve taken them home for my own children who were in their early 20s at the time. They didn’t want to leave it on the bench to a melting flesh. They wanted to eat it as a crisp pear, and they just thought they were fantastic.”
It’s really smooth. It doesn’t have a lot of grit cells in it. A buttery-type texture.
There’s hope a whole new generation of pear lovers will be excited by the new variety.
Taste testing and ag science
Part of Ian’s job is taste testing all the pears to find a winner. “I guess it’s no different to wine tasting. So, you’ve got to be careful you don’t eat too much of one. It’s just basically tasting it and refreshing the palate with some water and having the next one,” he describes.
They are also grown differently to others. You can only achieve the blush colour with direct exposure to the sun.
“I’ve stayed in science for so long because it’s about stimulating your mind about how things happen. It’s that inquisitive mind that keeps me going,” Ian shares.
Ian has noticed a huge change in the Ag Tech available to scientists and growers undertaking this kind of work.
I’ve stayed in science for so long because it’s about stimulating your mind.
“Now, we’ve got tools to be able to take all these measurements of different crosses in the field, practically instantaneously. With artificial intelligence we can measure the fruit colour, the fruit size, how many pieces of fruit are on a tree, how many flowers are on a tree, the size of the tree.”
It means assessing new varieties is faster and more streamlined than ever before. So, we can expect more commercial ventures for new crosses to come.
Right now though, the job at hand is spreading the word. You’ll find Rico Pears in Coles already and the stockists are still expanding. Try one if you can – they are delicious.
Hear more stories just like Ian’s by subscribing to the Telling Our Story podcast on iTunes and follow podcast host Angie Asimus on Instagram for more updates.