Have you ever tasted a Culotte Suisse? I must warn you. If you Google these words, you’ll come across pictures of women’s underwear! In fact, the Swiss Culotte (Schweizerhose in German) is an heirloom variety of pear. This fruit dates back to at least 1750 in the canton of Neuchâtel, when it was known as “la Verte longue suisse.” The name “culotte” appeared at the beginning of the 19th century.
Why does this pear have a strange name? Because of its stripes, which resemble the colorful stripes on the breeches (a type of short trousers) of the soldiers of the Swiss Guard (culotte means “panties” in French, but an older use of this term is for “breeches”). These soldiers have the responsibility to protect the Pope and Vatican City.
The bulbous Culotte pears are green, yellow and sometimes light red — a color that appears with exposure to sunshine.
Fructus, an association committed to the preservation of old and sometimes forgotten fruit varieties, named the Swiss Culotte Fruit of the Year in 2011. Based in Wädenswil in the canton of Zürich, this association reports that you can find more than 600 varieties of pears in Switzerland. These include the Williams pear from the Valais, the Botzi pear from Fribourg and the Rissole pear from Geneva, but there are many others to discover.
Pear specialties in Switzerland
Switzerland also has many traditional products made from pears. For example, vin cuit in the French-speaking regions and birnenhonig (or birnel) in German-speaking Switzerland. And, let’s not forget the whole dried pears. These dark brown pears have a slightly caramelized taste and serve as the key ingredient in the classic pear bread (Birnbrot) and the pear tart (Schlorzifladen) found in Eastern Switzerland.
When to find Culotte Suisse pears in Switzerland:
The Culotte Suisse pears are typically harvested later in the season, in October or perhaps even in November. You can eat these sweet, juicy pears fresh or use them for drying or for baking.