It’s more than a sleight of hand; it’s a French technique that is being tried out in Babylonstoren, South Africa. It may be easier than putting a ship in a bottle but requires just as much patience.
The pear isn’t put into the bottle; it grows inside it. When the fruit is small, the bottle is affixed to the tree branch, and the pear grows to maturity inside the bottle.
1 The process has to be started as soon as possible after the flowers have been pollinated and the fruit has begun to form. Then you have to practise your own version of selection before the June “drop”, when a proportion of fruit falls from the tree naturally.
2 Once you’ve selected your pears, remove the leaves near the fruit. Foliage in the bottle may rot or introduce pests and diseases, as well as restricting air circulation.
3 Tie a length of string around the neck of the bottle, then wrap the bottle in plastic netting. Now insert the narrow branch bearing the pear. The ideal position for the pear is just beyond the neck of the bottle so that it has plenty of room to grow.
4 Wrap the string around the body of the bottle and hang it from a nearby branch, using other branches to support it. The bottle must hang upside down so that moisture and dew can drain away and nothing can fall in. Don’t hang the bottle from the branch that bears the fruit – the combined weight of fruit plus bottle could break the branch. The fruiting branch also needs to move freely in the neck of the bottle so that it does not get damaged, causing the fruit to break up prematurely.
5 Protect the fruit from excess sunlight throughout the summer by wrapping the bottle in thin white horticultural fleece. Too much sun will make the fruit mature too quickly and it won’t grow as big as it could. 6 Then just wait, once the pear is ripe it will detach naturally from the branch.
Brandy made from Pears is added, and voila! The magic is complete.
Just one question remains. What do you do with the pear when you’ve drunk all the brandy?