Pear trees are one of the easiest fruit trees to grow in a home garden.
Pear trees are one of the easiest fruit trees to grow in a home garden.
USDA hardiness zones 3 - 10
Pear refers to several tree and shrub species in the genus, Pyrus, and the pomaceous fruit they produce. Some species are shrubby, however, most pear trees grow to a medium height, ranging from 33 to 56 feet with a tall, narrow crown.
Pear trees are usually deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves annually, but some Asian pear species are evergreen. Most species produce white flowers with five petals. The pear tree produces fruit known as as a pome, a fruit that consists of a thick, fleshy outer layer that conceals a core with five seeds enclosed in a capsule.
Pear trees are one of the easiest fruit trees to grow in a home garden. They have a high resistance to most pests and diseases that affect other fruit trees, can be grown in a wide range of soil types, and are suited to small garden spaces. A pear tree that is grown from seed will take five years to produce fruit.
Pear trees are grown from seed or propagated from rootstock grafting. Propagation from hardwood cuttings is successful in some species, but extremely difficult.
Rootstock grafting is the most common method of pear tree propagation. Grafting joins a piece of vegetative wood like a branch (scion) from the parent pear tree to a small rooted tree (the rootstock) to produce a new tree. The most widely used rootstocks for pears do not, in fact come from pear trees. They come from another species entirely, the quince.
Quince are smaller than pear trees and their rootstock encourages quicker maturity, meaning they produce fruit faster than a pear tree grown on its own roots. Pear trees grown from quince rootstock produce fruit in as little as three to five years.
Mature pear trees produce fruit in late summer or fall.
Most fruits need to ripen on the tree or vine, however, pears should be picked before they fully ripen. Because pear species range in color and shape, and because a fully-mature pear is still firm to the touch, it is difficult to discern when a pear is ready to pick by sight and firmness alone.
The best way to tell whether a pear is ready for harvest is to place the fruit in your hand and tilt the pear horizontally while it is still attached to the tree. A pear that is ready for harvest will tilt easily and possibly separate from the branch. A pear that is not ready to harvest will resist, maintaining its natural vertical hanging position on the branch.
When pears are ready to harvest, they are twisted gently from the branches.
Freshly-picked pears are stored at room temperature to allow ripening. Putting pears in a paper bag at room temperature hastens ripening. Squeezing the neck of a pear is a test of ripeness. If it yields to pressure, it is ripe and ready to eat. A freshly-picked pear will take between one to four days to fully ripen.
Ripe pears keep up to one week in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Alternatively, pears may be frozen for up to twelve months.
Note: To freeze: Wash, core and slice the pears. In a large saucepan, combine 2 3/4 cups of sugar with 4 cups of water, stir until the solution is clear, and bring to a boil. Heat pear slices in the boiling solution for 1 to 2 minutes, then drain without rinsing. After pear slices have cooled, pack them, along with the syrup, in airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags.
Pears are among the oldest cultivated fruits. The ancient Chinese believed the pear to be the fruit of immortality. In Homer’s Odyssey (ancient Greek), the pear is referred to as a “gift of the gods,” and in ancient Roman mythology, the goddess of fruit was called Pomona, which comes from the Latin word for orchard fruits such as pears and apples, pomum.
Pear trees were cultivated by ancient Roman farmers, and the pear is documented in Pliny’s Natural History and the ancient Roman cookbook, De re coquinaria, attributed to Apicius. Because of their long storage life and versatility, pears were a valued trade commodity in the ancient world. Prior to the introduction of tobacco, Europeans smoked pear leaves.
Early European colonists brought pear trees to the United States in the 17th century, but widespread cultivation did not occur until the 19th century when pioneers introduced pear trees to the Pacific Northwest. Today in the United States, pears grown in Oregon and Washington produce the bulk of commercial pears in the nation, and place the United States #3 in international pear production.
China, Italy, the United States, Argentina and Spain lead the world in commercial pear production (FAOSTAT, 2011).
There are more than 3,000 varieties of pear grown internationally. The most popular cultivars:
Bartlett (green and red varieties), Bosc, Anjou (green and red varieties), Commice, Forelle, Concorde, Starkrimson, and Seckel.
The pear is a highly versatile fruit that is enjoyed around the world in its many forms. Pears are eaten raw, juiced, canned, dried, or fermented into a cider called perry. They are often used to make preserves or jam and are a common ingredient in salads, baked entrees, desserts, and as a pairing with cheeses and wines. Some pears are even used to flavor wines.
The wood of the pear tree does not warp. It is is highly valued for its use in the manufacture of high quality furniture and woodwind instruments, as well as architects’ rulers. It is also sold as aromatic firewood, used for smoking tobacco and meats.
Since ancient times, pears have been a staple of the human diet in several cultures throughout the world. Noted for its dietary fiber and high phytonutrient content, the skin of the pear is where the majority of the fruit’s nutritional benefits are found.
The skin contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoids, as well as potential anti-cancer phytonutrients. Pear skin contains approximately half of the fruit’s entire concentration of dietary fiber.
One medium pear contains approximately six grams of fiber, approximately ¼ of the RDA of fiber.
The unique combination of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber in pears may be effective in the prevention of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The fibers are able to bind with bile acids in the intestines, decreasing the synthesis of cholesterol. This plays an important role in lowering the risk of heart disease.
Pears’ interaction with bile also helps to reduce levels of secondary bile in the intestine, reducing the risk of colorectal cancer and stomach cancer. They are also a key food associated with lowering the risk of esophageal cancer.
Pear flavonols and the anthocyanins found in red-skinned pear varieties help to improve insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetics.
Virtually all of the phytonutrients found in pears (especially red pear varieties) have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (1,638 participants with an average age range of 62 to 69) shows that the combination of apples and pears ranks as the second-highest source of flavonoids among all fruits and vegetables.
Pears are one of the leading hypoallergenic (low allergy) foods. They are low in salicylates and benzoates, and are one of the foods allowed in some of the most strict and exclusionary low-allergy diet plans.
Although it is possible to grow a pear tree from seed, buying a young tree is the best choice for fast crop results. A pear tree takes three to five years to produce fruit.
If you live in an area outside dry western regions, fire blight-resistant varieties are the best choice.
Pear trees grow do best in well-draining soil that is lightly fertilized. It is important not to over-fertilize pear trees. A slow-release fruit tree fertilizer spike is a good choice for a home garden. More fertilizer is needed only if the leaves turn a golden or yellow color during the summer.
Pear trees require full sun to grow and do well in areas with good air circulation during the cooler months of winter and early spring.
1. To plant a young pear tree, dig a hole slightly deeper and wider than the spread of the roots. Place the tree on a small mound at the center of the hole. Be sure to spread the roots away from the trunk without bending them. Do not add topsoil or fertilizer.
2. Space dwarf trees 12 to 15 feet apart and full-sized trees 20 to 25 feet apart.
3. Water young trees well during dry spells to establish roots. Continue to water regularly as the tree matures.
4. Prune pear trees often and use spreaders to help shape the branches to spread outward rather than upward and inward. Thin the fruit as well, leaving approximately 6 inches between each cluster of fruit per branch.