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Pears in Roman cuisine

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Roman mosaic showing pears
Roman mosaic showing pears

Pears were known and used in ancient Rome. Pliny the Elder states that there were 41 known varieties of pear, each of which had a different taste, appearance and name. They were known, for example “Tiberian”, from the name of Emperor Tiberius, or “Falernian”, from the Falernum wine, known for its sweet taste.

Pears were eaten in a variety of ways, often added to spicy or sweet dishes for flavour. Interestingly, we also know that the Romans in the 4th century CE started using pears to make garum. Let us recall that garum was an extremely intense and foul-smelling sauce made of the remains of fermented fish, which was used at meals. It was a kind of ketchup or mustard.

Palladius, a 4th-century Roman writer, gives a recipe for getting garum from pears. Ripe pears had to be grated, mixed with salt and made into a pulp that had to be left in the dish and covered. After three months, the flesh had to be separated from the liquid. Apparently, the resulting consistency had a white colour and a pleasant taste.

In order to prevent pears from rotting, Roman writers (eg Columella) recommended that pears be placed in honey or defrutum (boiled must).


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