Asian Pears

Saturday, October 29th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Holland flower bulbs are now available for fall planting. These lovely gems will bloom for you next spring.
    • Plant lawns now to have them ready for next summer enjoyment. Ask at your nursery for the best grass seed for your situation.
    • Divide overgrown water lilies and irises. Repot using heavy soil with no organic matter.
    • Compost your leaves as they fall, don’t burn them! Leaves make wonderful compost that breaks down into rich humus by next summer.
    • Apples, pears and other fruit trees can be planted in the fall from containers to get a head start on next spring.

Crisp and Juicy Asian Pears

Asian pears have been cultivated for centuries throughout China, Japan and Korea. In the 1850s, Chinese railroad laborers brought Asian pear seeds to California. They now flourish in orchards from northern California to Oregon and Washington. More than 25 kinds are grown commercially in this country.

Shaped like an apple, the Asian pear tastes like a familiar European pear with hints of melon or apple. Crisp in texture, it is juicy like a pear with a rich aroma. It is known by many names, including apple pear, salad pear, Oriental pear and Chinese pear. It is not a cross between apples and pears, as common names like apple pear may suggest.

The fruit is delicious right off the tree, and makes a great addition to salads. Like apples and peaches, they should be left to ripen on the tree for best flavor. Once harvested, they will keep very well in cold storage where they retain their crisp texture for several months.

Asian pear trees are easy to fit into the landscape. Their beautiful white flowers are a delight in the springtime. Where European pears usually have clusters of five blossoms, Asian pears have clusters of 10 to 12 blossoms, making a dazzling display. Some varieties, like ‘Ya Li’ and ‘Chojuro’, display brilliant red to wine-colored fall foliage.

Asian pears bear fruit in just two to four years, and there are many fine varieties to choose from. ‘20th Century’ was the first variety available in western markets. It is juicy, sweet and mild-flavored and is the most popular Asian pear in both Japan and California. ‘Hosui’ is a very flavorful pear that scores very high in taste tests. It has a brownish-orange, russeted skin and is very tasty.

‘Shinseiki’ is a round, yellow-skinned, firm fruit that is sweet, juicy and refreshing. It stores well for up to three months. ‘Chojuro’ is an old variety with golden-brown skin. It is not as juicy as other varieties, but stores well for up to five months.

‘Ya Li’ and ‘Tsu Li’ are classified as Chinese pears. They are shaped like European pears, tapered at the stem end. The green fruits are sweet and mild, and store for many months. They are very popular in China.

Asian pear varieties are partially self-fruitful but better crops are set where two or more different Asian pears are planted together. They can also be pollinated by European pears if the bloom periods overlap. ‘Anjou, ‘Bartlett’ and ‘Bosc’ are good pollinators.

Asian pears ripen in August, September and October in our climate. Since they are always firm, squeezing them will not tell you if they are ripe. The best test is simply to taste a sample fruit from the tree. If they are sweet and have a nice fragrance, they are ready to harvest. Handle them carefully to prevent bruising.

Explore these exotic Asian fruits and you will enjoy the beauty of their flowers in spring, the flavors of heir fruits in summer and the warm colors of their leaves in autumn.