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History Of The Pear
Excavations of ancient lake dwellers in Switzerland provide convincing archaeological evidence that the European pear, Pyrus communis L., was known by that civilization. It is believed that the pear was introduced to prehistoric man, but there is no agreement on whether the apple came first or the pear. The ancient pear tree of Europe was fundamentally different from the Asian pear tree, Prunus pyrifolia.
English records show that in 1629 “the Massachusetts Company sent pear stones to New England” for the colonists to plant and grow trees in Plymouth, MA.
On March 30, 1763, the famous American George Mason entered in his extensive orchard journal: “10 black pears of Worchester grafted from Colo. . . are a large course (coarse) fruit for baking” and a variety of old French pears.
Fort Frederica, on St. Simons Island, Georgia, was established by English colonists in 1733, around the same time the city of Savannah was settled. To enable settlers to self-sufficient food supplies, General Oglethorpe developed a plan to introduce trees and plants growing in temperate and subtropical climates that would be valuable for Georgia’s future farms and fruit and nut orchards. These goals were recorded by William Bartram in his book Travels, published 40 years later in 1773. John Bartram, William Bartram’s father and traveling companion, made his exploratory journey to parts of eastern Florida, the Carolinas, and Georgia, and examined the resources and plant inventory that the Spanish had left to the English as colonial acquisitions.
Prince Nursery was founded in Flushing, New York in 1737 as the first American nursery to collect, grow and sell plants and trees, Prince Nursery advertised “42 pear trees for sale in 1771”.
John Bartram planted pear tree seeds in 1793 and this ancient tree grew and bore fruit until 1933.
Luther Burbank, the great American plant hybridizer and author of his epic and monumental 12-volume account of years of observations on plant development, noted that originally, there were two genetic lines of pear that he and others used to improve commercial quality. Pear trees and their fruits. European pear, Pyrus communis L., Asian pear, Pyrus pyrifolia, also known as Korean pear tree, Japanese pear tree, Chinese pear tree and Taiwan pear tree. These are combined to obtain recombination of genes, and those complex combinations of characters are eliminated which will hopefully produce superior fruit.
Bartram wrote in his ‘Fruit Improvement’ about a chance hybrid of pears that appeared in a field near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the result of European pears and Chinese sand pears that were planted as ornamentals in orchards. This hybrid Mr. Found on Peter Kiefer’s farm, the first hybrid oriental pear tree got its name. “Kiefer” pears have a pleasant aroma; It is a beautiful and elegant tree with large white flowers, but this pear is best preserved or cooked into pies because of its firmness. Cold hardiness and disease resistance make this pear a prized variety that is still the best-selling pear tree today.
Other Oriental pear trees that enter popular nursery mailorder catalogs are Le Conte, Garber, and Smith pear trees. These pear trees became standard cultivars for Gulf State garden plantings, where European pear trees did not grow well.
Other varieties of pears developed in California were described as large in size with delicate color, aroma and excellent quality. One of these hybrid pears nine inches high and five pounds in weight—one fruit.
Burbank pointed out that the commercial pear trade frowns on larger pears because of boxing, sorting and shipping problems, and that the average pear fruit buyer often does not buy larger pears. The northwestern United States produces the most commercial pears, usually because of the fruit’s exceptional dessert quality. The oldest sensation in the pear market is the Bartlett (Williams), which grows with other varieties in a group called “Winter Pears.” Comice, D’Anjou, Bosc, Red D’Anjou and Concorde pears. These cultivars have a very limited range of successful growth, due to their delicate European pear parentage, Pyrus communis, and are not recommended for growing in most United States regions.
Since the pear tree is a non-drying fruit easily recognized by its general description, the shape of the fruit, “pear-shaped,” is the typical variety that everyone understands. Buyers of pear fruit are very partial to buying pears in the shape they are accustomed to, and often reject the Asian pear, ‘Pyrus pyrifolia,’ a round or apple-shaped fruit. The texture of pears is unique among fruits with aroma, flavor, and the idea that pears (European clones) must be picked off the tree to ripen later; So, Asian pears are best left on the trees to ripen to develop full flavor.
The skin of the pear grows in a wide range of colors, including green, yellow, orange, red and tan, and it makes a great protective cover against the eyes of birds and other animals. Pear trees take longer to set fruit than other fruit trees, but dwarf fruit trees will bear quickly if grafted onto the rootstock; However, most tree merchants offer semi-dwarf trees for sale, and of course, larger trees start fruiting earlier than smaller trees. Asian pear trees bear fruit earlier than European pear trees. One factor that has delayed the spread of pear trees since ancient times is that they have poor germination success unless the seeds are moist, and most travelers along the ancient “Silk Road” trade routes dried the seeds for sale or exchange.
Fruit shoppers in the U.S. have shown a dramatic and increased interest in purchasing fresh pears from grocery stores over the past 25 years. USDA resources report that per capita consumption of table quality, fresh pears has increased more than most fruits, while purchases of fresh peaches have decreased. Fresh pears can be stored at freezing temperatures for up to 5 months, so that consumers can purchase them later. For backyard gardeners, pear trees can grow 20-30 feet on semi-dwarf rootstock and are well suited to growing in most soils, even poorly drained soils, preferably in a pH range of 6 to 7. Pear trees will grow and tolerate temperatures. Minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Burbank made several strange crosses with pear trees. He passed apples and pears with quince; However, those hybrid plants did not grow to produce acceptable fruit.
Pears are rich in antioxidants and fats with health benefits from vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin C, niacin and the minerals calcium, phosphorus, iron and potassium.
Several pear varieties are recommended for planting. Ayers Pear Tree, Baldwin Pear Tree, Columbus Red Pear Tree, Floridahome Pear Tree, Hood Pear Tree, Kiefer Pear Tree, Leconte Pear Tree, Moonglow Pear Tree, Orient Pear Tree, Pineapple Pear Tree, Sand Pear Tree and Warren Pear Tree. Four varieties of Asian pears are also planted: the Korean Giant Pear Tree, the Hosui Pear Tree, the Shinseki Pear Tree, and the Twentieth Century Pear Tree.
There are also four varieties of flowering, fruitless pears. Bradford Flowering Pear Tree, Cleveland Flowering Pear Tree, Aristocrat Flowering Pear Tree and Autumn Blaze Flowering Pears.
Copyright 2006 Patrick Malcolm
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