Good Gardening: Pears

Dec 2, 2019

Credit John Fischer / KLCC

When I was a kid I remember hearing about people getting a box of pears for Christmas. I had two thoughts.  Pears for Christmas- that's worse than socks. And how can you have fresh pears in the middle of winter.

Fast forward 40 years and I learned about winter pears.  You pick in October, November , or even December, refrigerated them for a month or two, then let the fruit ripen at room temperature to be consumed fresh. The most common backyard pear- the Bartlet does not need to be chilled, but the winter varieties. D'anjou, Comice, Bosc, and Vicar of Winkfield to name a few taste best when chilled, and can provide fresh fruit for the table into February.  And they all grow well here, and get fewer pests than Bartlet pears.

All pears should be picked when the fruit is still hard.  If the pear comes off the tree when you lift up on it, it is ready to pick. The Bartlet will ripen in a box in a week and a half, but can be also delayed through refrigeration. Once the fruit is in cold storage, you can take it out as you need it.  Half a dozen a day- more when company is coming.

In the old days, chilling took place on the tree, or in the cellar. By using modern refrigeration, Harry and David made a business out of shipping pears around the world. You can use the fridge to extend your fresh fruit season to 10 months or more.

Pears take a few years to start producing fruit, but can live a long time. Choose a fire blight resistant variety. I have a 100-year-old Comice that is going strong, and produces hundreds of pounds each year. Guess what my family gets as a gift around the holidays?

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