(Genus: Pyrus communis - Family: Rosaceae)
The Pear tree and its origins
Cultivated since ancient times, the pear’s exact origins are unknown but it is believed to be from Asia, particularly the Caspian Sea region.
It is mentioned, along with the pomegranate, by Homer in Odyssey. In the sixteenth and seventeenth century, its fruits were much loved by the king of France.
This deciduous tree has a wide number of cultivars which produce an array of different shaped and sizes of fruit from ornamental miniature pears through to large, rich-coloured and sweet-flesh fruit.
How to Plant: Pear Trees
For best results, plant pears in autumn using grafted rootstock which will help to overcome this fruit tree’s vulnerability to disease. The size of the final tree is dependent on the rootstock chosen. Space each plant at least 3-4ft apart to allow plenty of space to grow and ensure the plant is rich in nutrients to produce a healthy crop.
Some pear tree varieties such as Conference, are self-fertile but the majority of cultivars are self-sterile, meaning that they will require another cultivar, that will be in bloom during the same period, to facilitate cross-pollination and a healthy crop.
This fruit thrives in a temperate climate; some more precious varieties require warmer conditions. A hardy tree, it will grow in most soil types, preferring light, well-draining soils. During dry periods, it will require regular watering but this should be reduced once the tree begins to bloom. It is important to avoid over-watering as this will affect the quality of the final crop. Post-harvesting, watering should cease.
Prepare the soil in advance with well-rotted organic matter. Pears will benefit from a fertile soil, feed the soil with xxxxxxxxxxxxxat a dose of xxxg per plant in year 1 and xxxg per plant from year 2, mixing it well into the soil surrounding the roots of the pear tree. Then after the 3rd year, fertilise with xxxxxxxxxx at a dose of xx g/m before the flowers bloom, a month before harvest and the end of winter.
To guarantee a healthy crop and delicious fruit, this tree will require regular pruning. It is a vigorous growing plant and will become weak if not pruned correctly. Thinning out branches and cutting away weak or malformed fruit, as early as possible in the growing cycle, ensures that all the key nutrients are focused on the best fruit to produce an excellent crop.
The summer pruning should be carried out only on the most vigorous plants to allow air to reach the crown. Thin out the pear tree after the first harvest in June.
Seasonality: When to harvest Pears
A vigorous, deciduous tree, pears can reach 15m high, if left untended. The bark of the tree is a grey in colour, while the leaves are oval with long stems, they are bright green on the top and lighter at the bottom.
The tree comes into bloom in late March and the flowers remain for approximately 3 weeks. They are usually white with five petals, gathered in corymbs. Then the fruits begin to appear and can be harvested from June to October, depending on the variety chosen.
Pears are most commonly harvested before they are fully ripe and when slightly firm. They benefit from a ripening period, where they will become softer and then flesh starts to taste sweeter. After harvesting, pears should be stored in a cool place.
Propagation of Pear trees
Pears can be propagated by seed but it is not advised as they tend to produce weak specimens and are susceptible to disease. They can also be propagated by cuttings or other methods depending on the variety.
More commonly, they are cultivated from grafts and rootstock. Currently, the most widely used rootstock is the Quince, of which there are several selections of pear tree grafts to choose from.
Variety of pears
There are thousands of pear cultivars, the best known are:
- Carmen - an early producing variety with a large fruit size and yellow green colour with red spots and juicy, aromatic flesh. It produces lots of fruit that are long-lasting.
- Thigh – It is medium-small sized, light green in colour and with a very sweet flesh. It reaches maturity in late July.
- Santa Maria – A summer producing variety that is quite juicy, the plant produces a high volume of fruit. It is eaten from mid July to late October.
- William and William Red - The fruit is large, golden-yellow dotted with red and deep red. It has juicy, sweet and fragrant flesh and ripens in August.
- Hardy butter - Large ovoid Fruit with wrinkled, greenish-bronze skin. The white coloured is sweet and the tree’s fruit matures from late August to mid September.
- Conference - large elongated fruit that has greenish-yellow-orange outer skin and fragrant, juicy pulp. This pear ripens in October but to preserve, it should be harvested sooner.
- Abbot Fetel – It has a distinctive long "neck" and is green-skinned with a very juicy pulp. It will mature in early September.
- Dean of the Comitium - It is one of the best varieties, characterised by the fruits’ stocky and very large appearance with a reddish-yellow, stained brown outer skin. Maturing in late October, it should be harvested in September if you wish to preserve it.
- Kaiser - large and elongated pear fruit with yellowish-white flesh that is juicy and sweet. The outer skin is 'rust-coloured with a background of yellow-bronze. It matures between October and November, but to preserve it, must be harvested in September
Diseases and insect affecting pear trees:
- Scale insects
- Codling moth
- Leafminer larvae
- Brown maculation
- Powdery mildew
Did you know: Use of pears and interesting facts
The wood of the pear tree is a beautiful pinkish white colour with a fine grain and high hardness. It is used in cabinetmaking.
Pears are also used widely in cooking, particularly in sweets and salads and can be baked, poached, fried, or juiced.
A rich source of vitamin C and natural sugars including fructose, they are ideal for the diet with only 65 calories per 100g. Vitamin C helps to achieve smooth and younger looking skin and it boosts immunity against common infections. Pears are rich in fibre; they help to limit the level of sugar in the blood and the functioning of the digestive tract, in addition to keeping cholesterol at bay.