What fruit looks like an apple, but tastes like a pear? It's the Asian pear. Although we know European pear varieties such as Bartlett, many gardeners are still unfamiliar with this ancient fruit. Asian pears have been grown for more than 3,000 years in Japan and China. There are yellow- and brown-skinned varieties. Both are round and crisp like an apple, but sweet and juicy like a pear.
Asian pears are often given as holiday gifts and are highly prized. In grocery stores you may see them individually wrapped like special treasures. Their ivory colored flesh has a complex flavor with a hint of butterscotch.
Plus, they're easy to grow! Most Asian pears are hardy to zone 5. I grow Chojuro and Shinseiki and they fruit consistently each year.
Asian pears grow best on well-drained soil in full sun. Although they can be pollinated by European pears, it's best to plant at least two Asian pear varieties for good production. Asian pears are great trees for small yards because they only grow 15 feet tall and don't require lots of pruning.
Other than keeping young trees well-watered for the first few years and thinning fruits, Asian pears are fairly trouble-free. The biggest problem is fire blight disease. Look for resistant varieties, such as Shinko and Shin Li, to avoid this disease.
Unlike European pears that are harvested before they fully ripen, harvest Asian pears while the fruit is ripe, yet still firm, on the tree. When ripe, the fruits will easily pull off the tree. Fruits that require a yank are probably not ready yet.
Next week on the Connecticut Garden Journal, I'll be talking about lawn care. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.