» Archive for September, 2009

Fruitful Delights from Asia

Monday, September 21st, 2009 by Jenny Watts

The crisp texture, sweet juice and fragrant aroma of Asian pears makes them a delightful addition to the fruit bowl. Shaped like an apple, the Asian pear tastes like a familiar European pear except that it has subtle hints of citrus or pineapple. Its crisp but juicy flesh gives it the common name “apple-pear”.

Asian pears have much to offer. They are easy-to-grow and disease-resistant. In the springtime they bloom with a profusion of white blossoms. Some varieties, such as ‘Chojuro’ also display brilliant red fall color.

Asian pear varieties are categorized by their skin color and the amount of russeting, or roughness of the skin. Russeted fruit may look as though there’s something wrong with it, but this roughness is a normal characteristic of some varieties. It can be golden orange, bronze, yellow-brown or green-brown. Russeted varieties include ‘Hosui’, ‘Chojuro’, ‘Shinko’ and ‘Ishiiwase’. It has no effect on the flavor of the fruit. Smooth-skinned varieties include ‘Shinseiki’ and ‘20th Century’.

Asian pears bear fruit in two to four years from planting. One of the tastiest is ‘Shinko’ with a rich, sweet flavor and golden-russeted skin. ‘20th Century’ is very juicy and crisp with a mild flavor. ‘Hosui’ is a taste test winner with large, juicy, sweet, refreshing fruit.

You can enjoy Asian pears long after harvest if you know when to pick them and how to store them. Asian pears should be harvested when ripe. The best test for ripeness is simply to taste a sample fruit. Sweetness it the primary indicator of ripeness.

Asian pears should be stored in a refrigerator or other cool place. They will keep for about two months. ‘Kikusui’ can be stored for up to six months.

Asian pear trees thrive on benign neglect. Trees that are given lots of fertilizer will grow rapidly and put on lots of leaves but few fruits. They do best in soil with average fertility, water and drainage. A thorough watering every three weeks in the summer will make them healthy and productive.

Cross-pollination is required for Asian pears to set a good crop. So plant two different Asian pear trees or one Asian pear and a Bartlett pear tree. Trees should be no more than 50 feet apart for the bees to do their work.

Asian pears will delight you with the beauty of their flowers in spring, the flavor of their fruits in summer and the warm colors of their leaves in the fall.

A Gallery of Great Pears for the Home Orchard

Monday, September 21st, 2009 by Jenny Watts

Pear trees produce generous crops of delicious fruit and make handsome landscape trees with their glossy leaves and white blossoms. They are long-lived trees and are one of the easiest fruits to grow in this area.

There are many tasty varieties to choose from that will give you fresh fruit over a long season. ‘Bartlett’ is the earliest pear in this area. It is the thin-skinned yellow fruit familiar in the market in late summer. Perfect for canning, and excellent for drying, they are sweet and juicy and delicious for fresh eating. ‘Sensation Red Bartlett’ is similar, but with an attractive red skin. ‘Harrow Delight’ is even earlier than ‘Bartlett’ and very similar with smooth, sweet flesh.

Mid-season pears mature in September and October. ‘Anjou’ is a large, green pear that is firm but not especially juicy. Sweet and mild-flavored, it makes delicious pear pies and is an excellent keeper. ‘Bosc’ has long, narrow fruit that is heavily russeted. The flesh is crisp and fragrant with a distinct flavor. Baked or poached, it is one of the best. The smallest of the commonly grown pears, ‘Seckel’ is also the sweetest. So small that they can be canned whole, they are also delicious fresh.

Late season pears ripen in November. ‘Warren’ pears are juicy and sweet with buttery texture and very good keeping abilities. ‘Comice’ pears, green and often with a red blush, are the favorite of many for eating fresh and as a dessert pear. They are too juicy for cooking, but the very best for fresh eating.

Pears need pollination to bear a good crop. Plant two or more different trees within 100 feet of each other and they will all bear more fruit. If you only have room for one tree, plant one grafted with three or four varieties, or do your own grafting. Most varieties will start to bear significant harvests 5 to 6 years after planting.

Choose a site with full sun, moderately fertile soil, and good air circulation. Pears will do well in many different soils. Space standard-size trees 20 to 25 feet apart and dwarf trees 12 to 15 feet apart.

Pears do best with a small amount of fertilizer early in the year. Heavy doses of nitrogen will make the tree more vulnerable to fire blight.

Pear trees live for many years and with proper pruning and care, will give you an abundance of delicious fruit.

Mouth-watering Cherries

Monday, September 21st, 2009 by Jenny Watts

Cherries are without a doubt one of the most popular early summer fruits. It seems like you never get enough of them, and the prices in the stores are so high, why not try growing your own?

Cherries are not the easiest fruit to grow in this area, but they are well worth it if you succeed. Their main requirement is well-drained soil. Half of the trees planted die in the first five years due to bacterial canker and wet soils. But those that make it produce good crops of delicious fruit.

There are two types of cherries, sweet ones and sour ones. The sweet ones are found in the markets. Most popular are the large, black, juicy Bing cherries. Black Tartarian and Van are very similar and make good backyard varieties.

Then there are the yellow sweet cherries. Best know is Royal Ann, but Rainier has proven to be superior to Royal Ann, sweet and flavorful.

Craig’s Crimson is a very fine sweet cherry. It is dark red, with a wonderful spicy flavor. The tree grows about 2/3 the size of a standard tree.

The sour cherries aren’t as bad as they sound. They are famous for making outstanding pies and cobblers. Montmorency is the most widely grown with large, light red fruit that have yellow flesh. North Star is similar looking but has red flesh and a small pit. It is a naturally dwarf tree and is self-fruitful.

Correct pollination is important for cherries. Most sweet cherries require two different trees for cross-pollination. Stella, which makes large, black, richly flavored fruit, and Craig’s Crimson will fruit on their own. Not all sweet cherries will cross pollinate, so check with your nursery to be sure you buy varieties which are compatible. For best pollination, trees should be planted within 50 feet of each other. Most sour cherries are self-fruitful and will set fruit alone.

Sweet cherries become large trees, about 30 feet tall. With pruning you can keep them smaller, so it’s easier to pick the fruit and to cover the tree to keep the birds away. Sour cherries grow only 20 feet tall and are more spreading in form.

When you plant cherry trees, carefully record the names of the varieties in case you need to replant a tree sometime. Make room for cherries in your yard!