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.