Asian Pear: The Unsung Fruit Tree

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When people think about planting fruit trees in their garden, popular fruits are at the top of the list.  Apple.  Cherry.  Peach.  Plum.  Of course, it goes without saying that it also depends on what USDA hardiness zone in which you reside.  But let me ask you this.   Have you ever thought about planting an Asian Pear tree?

Asian Pear (Pyrus pyrifolia) is native to Korea, Japan, and China.  Over the years, this pear is being cultivated in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States.  This tree grows well in USDA hardiness zones 5 – 9, although there are a few newer varieties that have been grown in zone 4.

Asian Pear tree

Asian Pear tree

This tree is becoming common at local nurseries in the United States.  For best performance, select a variety that is resistant to fire blight.  Once you get the tree home, select a well-drained location with full sun.  While many varieties require a second tree for pollination, there are self-pollinating varieties available.  It is worth noting that studies report that larger fruit and more fruit set with a second tree for pollination compared with just a single tree.  When fully mature, an Asian pear can be 10 – 20 feet tall based on the cultivar and so they work well in backyards.  One thing to keep in mind is that Asian Pears set a lot of fruit.  Lots of fruit.  Bend the limbs down lots of fruit.   As a result thinning is required to get larger pears as well as to reduce the risk of branches breaking under the heavy load of fruit.

While European Pears are typically harvested when the fruit is not quite ripe (it will continue to ripen after harvest), an Asian Pear can be left on the tree to fully ripen.  This means that you can harvest at the peak of ripeness for best flavor.  And if you have ever had a bland and not sweet Asian Pear, it was probably harvested too soon.

If you have never tried an Asian Pear, you are in for a treat.  The fruit is aromatic, has crisp flesh (similar to an apple),  sweet with a slight tartness, and is very juicy.   (Compared this to the European Pear which is sweeter, juicy, and has a soft flesh.)   While it was not traditionally baked into pies or tarts or even made into jelly, it was best enjoyed eaten fresh.   That being said, Asian Pear bake up beautifully in tarts (it is okay to break with tradition).

Asian Pears ripening on the tree

Asian Pears ripening on the tree

This fruit is commonly carried in grocery stores around the country.  And if you have seen it in the produce section, you may have also noticed that it is priced per pear, not per pound.  Some stores display it in protective covers.  The reason is this fruit bruises quite easily.  While it can be shipped, it is best if shipped short distances rather than across country.  The extra attention in handling and shipping accounts for the high price compared to standard pears that are sold per pound.  One other item worth noting is that they have a relatively long shelf life… 10 – 14 days if left on the counter at room temperature and up to four weeks in the crisper bin of the refrigerator.  If kept in cold storage, the fruit can last for up to three months.

Consider getting an Asian Pear for your backyard.  While there are self-pollinating varieties, more and larger fruit is set with the addition of a second tree.  They bear lots of fruit that is crisp, sweet with a little tartness, and are very juicy.  Handle the fruit carefully so as to prevent bruising.

 

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10 responses »

  1. We love Asian Pears! We have a local U-Pick orchard that has a lot of Asian Pear trees. We went this year and with what we had left after my kids gorged themselves on them, we made pear butter, jam, and even dried some in the dehydrator. So delicious! 🙂

    • How great that you have a local U-Pick orchard. I bet the whole family had fun. I could gorge myself on Asian Pears as well. Just love the flavor. At this moment, we have a batch of pears cooking down into pear butter.

    • I haven’t grown pears in a container. The variety of pear we got will be about 20′ at maturity and given our winters, I would rather that the root ball be in the ground than in a container (I wouldn’t be able to successfully over-winter container grown trees).

  2. thanks so much for this info. I am in Canada in 5b zone. will try and get some for next year as I live them but they are so pricey.

    • I like that name! We have had our tree for 5 years and it is a champ! It has made it through several winters where we had temperatures below zero. And given how expensive the pears in the store are… it is nice to have our own tree.

      • That’s the only name we know it by here. There is one next door that we used to raid when the house stood empty for few years but alas, someone actually lives there now 🙂 Yes, we will have to get one!

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