Is the fruit from Harry and David really more amazing ?
November 28, 2018 6:36 PM   Subscribe

Assuming I am buying fruit from my local grocery store (HyVee) in season (ie nearly ripe pears in the fall, ripe peaches in the middle of summer, crisp apples in the fall, oranges in the winter, etc, etc) , can I really expect the fruit from Harry and David to taste significantly better? On the one hand I feel it must because otherwise what justifies the exorbitant pricing? But on the other hand perfectly ripened in season fruit is so good that I can't imagine what could be done to it to make it taste even better. Thoughts?
posted by TestamentToGrace to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The pears are fantastic, and very consistent in size, ripeness and flavor. How they do that, I don't know. Maybe a tighter set of standards on variation and quality or something.
posted by Fig at 6:45 PM on November 28, 2018 [10 favorites]

If you are good at picking good fruit in season, no, it’s no better. But if you aren’t good at it, it’s nice to have well chosen fruit just show up. Dr. Advicepig’s Grandma got the fruit of the month sent to her for years, and we ended up eating a fair bit of it.
posted by advicepig at 6:47 PM on November 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

Not in my experience. I mean, it's better than A&P, but if you have a reasonable grocery (or better yet, a farmer's market), you can get comparable produce at a fraction of the cost. And you can calibrate your purchase to your needs: when Harry & David shipments arrive, you get five pounds of Bosc pears at the same peak freshness that need to be eaten immediately. It's not like they give you 2 very ripe pears, 2 somewhat ripe pears to eat in three days and 2 pears to eat next week. It's six very expensive pears all at once and you have to quit your job because your new life is eating pears all the damn time.

I keep having this fight with my mother and in laws, who I think came of age when you couldn't get a good pear somewhere down the street, so they want to spend $75 on six very ripe pears that assail us. Buy us $10 of pears at Whole Foods and then donate the rest for God's sake. I'm a busy man, I can't just spend all day eating Mammon's ever-loving pears all day.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:47 PM on November 28, 2018 [90 favorites]

Harry and David sell Comice pears (under a different trademarked name) which are notoriously sweet and delicious, not made for cooking. If you can find Comice pears in your local stores then it will be the same.
posted by muddgirl at 6:47 PM on November 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Well, I cannot speak to Harry and David, but my then-teenaged daughter bought me a box of pears for Christmas one year, and HOLY SHIT SUCH PEARS. I mean, they went beyond the platonic ideal of a pear, and into the fever dreams of some supernatural pear Creator. These pears were so good, I cannot possibly believe they ever did anything like grow on a tree planted in dirt. They were... man. SUCH pears.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 6:48 PM on November 28, 2018 [57 favorites]

I think with this sort of service you are primarily paying for convenience (send nice stuff to this address at the click of a button online!), as well as a bit of selection/filtering and buying power.

So yeah: with good experience and training and access to high quality markets, you can get the same goods for less money, if you have the time and geographic proximity necessary to close the deals.

But, you cannot get those same quality goods to (e.g.) rural North Dakota by Xmas with minimal effort and minimal price. That kind of delivery costs a premium, and that’s what you’re paying for, if you choose to use these gift services.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:57 PM on November 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yeah, sure, if you have good markets and know what you're doing you can sometimes, I am told, get fruit as good as Harry & David. However, what they are selling is location services, you not having to know the ins and outs of fruit selection, and reliability.

And they are reliable: every box of theirs I have interacted with has contained some of the best pears of my life.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 7:15 PM on November 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

The exorbitant pricing is what it's all about. Yes, the pears are great for that perfect ripe pear experience, but an H&D box is mostly a sign that the givers are generous and classy with their gifts. In my life, there's a certain kind of family friend or work supervisor who give them out.
posted by vacuumsealed at 7:18 PM on November 28, 2018 [6 favorites]

We order high end citrus by the case from California. It's a splurge but it's a pretty small splurge relative to almost any other food item. The difference between that and grocery store fruit is incredible.

I don't actually think Harry and David's is really in that camp, but if you question is " is buying fancy fruit worth it" a resounding yes.

There is someone here in NYC who gets frog hollow cases and sells by the pound. Pretty incredible as well.
posted by JPD at 7:40 PM on November 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

I send Frog Hollow Farms fruit sometimes (they're just down the road from me) and people tell me that yes, their stuff blows away supermarket produce. Harry and David's pears are good but I think the value for cost is with Frog Hollow.
posted by wintersweet at 7:45 PM on November 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

Nthing “holy shit” RE: the comice pears. When I recieved a box they were individually wrapped in gold foil and it couldn’t have been more appropriate.
posted by lovableiago at 8:07 PM on November 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

This is about the logistics and symbolism of giving the gift of fresh delicious fruit. I do not know many people who would go to the high end grocery, pick out some fruit and mail it to a relative or friend or client, etc. The logistics are simply too much of a PITA. Second, Harry and David are an established (well marketed) luxury brand that as a poster above noted, says just as much if not more about the giver as the receiver.
posted by AugustWest at 8:51 PM on November 28, 2018

I don’t know if it’s “worth it” but H&D fruit is typically better than supermarket fruit.
posted by samthemander at 9:52 PM on November 28, 2018

Since other commenters have mentioned them, I can vouch that Frog Hollow Farms' fruit is amazing. I've both bought their fruit fresh at the Ferry Building Farmers' Market in San Francisco, and had it shipped from the farm. It's so lovely, in the heart of winter in Massachusetts, to have the sweetest, juiciest citrus fruit show up on your front porch - or even to get a shipment of in-season California-grown cherries in May, because local cherries are still two months away in the Northeast.

I honestly don't buy much fruit at the grocery store anymore except for bananas and other tropical fruits, though; I would say that Frog Hollow's apples and pears are as good as the ones my local farmers grow, and as good as the fruit I can get at the local gourmet market that only buys fruit from small independent farmers throughout the country, and all are better than what I can get at any local standard supermarket in the Northeast.

(Also, Admiral Haddock, if I could quit my job and just eat perfectly in season fruit all the time, SIGN ME UP RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW ;) )
posted by Pandora Kouti at 10:01 PM on November 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

Don't think only of pear vs. pear comparisons. You're getting the whole experience: pre-selection, the wrapping, the beauty, the perfect ripeness, the careful packing, the anticipation. If you are hungry enough that the pear itself is the whole point, you should just get some sustenance.
posted by amtho at 11:01 PM on November 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Since I live in OR, we can get reject H&D pears in the grocery store. They're lumpy and uneven but they taste just as good as the fancy ones. H&D has crazy quality control, down to uniformity of shape and size, so everything else ends up at Winco.
posted by fiercekitten at 11:06 PM on November 28, 2018 [8 favorites]

I get H&D boxes of pears pretty much every holiday season from one business associate or another and they are no better than the ones from the store, except exorbitantly priced and producing an obscene amount of waste in the form of boxes and paper and shipping fuel and omg why.
posted by lydhre at 6:31 AM on November 29, 2018

The fruit is easily worth 2, maybe 3, times what I pay for fruit in the grocery. Currently, H&D box of 9 pears is $30 and weighs 5 lbs. 6/lb for pears. Comice pears are @ 2/lb in the grocery. For a gift, this is in the range of acceptability; they will be large, ripe, unblemished, and it's a much nicer gift than a pair of gloves that don't fit, or a kitchen gadget that will go to Goodwill.

Now I want a pear.
posted by theora55 at 7:04 AM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Perhaps it's my local experience but Hy-Vee tends to have abysmal produce in the winter so I'd be willing to look just about anywhere else for decent fruit.
posted by Ferreous at 8:32 AM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

i am a persnickety and annoying person about fruit quality and good god i love those overpriced, magical pears
posted by colorblock sock at 9:07 AM on November 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

Harry & David was eviscerated and nearly destroyed by private capital (ptui) in the last, oh, decade or so, and their quality is said to have suffered a lot during and be rebounding after, which might explain some differences in H&D experience. We still can't know if mail-order winter fruit is better than your local options without knowing a lot about your local options, and also what kind of fruit connoisseur you are. I'm always happy to get a box from them and the boxes are pretty, sturdy, and non-branded enough that I reuse them as attractive storage for years.

But here's some stuff I can't not think about when thinking about H&D. The valley Medford and H&D is in, where the specialty fruit orchards are, is like Tolkien's Shire semi-industrialized and hidden in high desert. It's a really amazing place to grow fruit and veg (I would say tied with coastal Santa Cruz, a trifle less otherworldly than Ojai; visited all these places doing soil science fieldwork) but it's far from cities. It makes total sense for them to be growing specialty crops for export, and accordingly the town is mostly food-prep companies, especially organic ones. The town also suffers every time private capital (ptui) decides to extract some value from any of these companies, with the result that it's not just a working-class town, it's a beat-up kind of depressed working-class town despite producing wonderful food eaten across the country. I get angry every time I go through and compare it to Ashland, which is almost entirely a retirement-and-vacations economy and is doing much better, even nosing around in the off-strip parts. (The poorest workers in Ashland commute from Medford, I'm told. No cross-funding of schools, afaik.) And Ashland should be nice, it's lovely and both the Shakespeare fest and the river rafting have taken decades of continuous organization. But Medford should be nice *too*.
posted by clew at 12:25 PM on November 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

Re: being stuck with five pounds of ripe pears

My parents used to send me megapacks of H&D pears that would, of course, all ripen at the same time and be impossible to eat. So I made and canned batches of pear butter -- and it's seriously the only stuff I've ever canned, it took no prior experience -- and it was amazing. I had tons more pear butter than I could eat, and small jars made great gifts. I used the recipe in the classic Ball's canning book, if I remember correctly.
posted by liet at 12:36 PM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

As for what justifies the exhorbitant pricing:

-Comice aren't particularly vigorous trees, and they are more susceptible to some diseases than other varieties.

-To get the best crop of big, well-shaped pears, they are thinned early in the season - extra work not needed to grow smaller pears of more robust varieties.

-Comice pears have delicate, fussy skins - they require a lot of work throughout the growing season to remain beautiful and perfect. They get friggin' sunburn. They russet if you look at them wrong.

-Pears have the best flavor when picked underripe, chilled, and then ripened. Often, they are stored under nitrogen to increase the time they can be stored (e.g., easily until Christmas). Pretty much all pears for fresh-eating get this treatment, but H&D are experts at it and it affects flavor.

-Once they're ripe, they need to be handled and packed very carefully and then shipped across the country quickly.

IMO, the pears are a better value than, say, the candy and confections, which you can get interchangeable versions of from lots of places. Peel them for optimal lusciousness. If you're really into pears and can afford a treat, of course.

(And the pear industry was in trouble before 1-800-FLOWERS bought H&D, not to mention that H&D has always needed a mostly seasonal, low-paid workforce. There's more going on than "big bad corp ruins agriculture.")
posted by momus_window at 2:39 PM on November 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

« Older Fake MySpace/Geocities Account?   |   What can I do with a talking graphing calculator? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.