Asian Pear

(Pyrus pyrifolia)

Asian Pear fruit
‘Shinseiki’ fruit

Cultivars tested

‘Shinseiki’, ‘Hosui’, ‘Large Korean’

Description and site preference

Type and size – small to medium tree, about 15 feet
Hardiness zone – 4-8
Exposure – full sun to some shade
Soil – pH 6.0-7.5
Drainage – moderate to well-drained

Economic factors

Years to harvest – 2-4
Maintenance – medium to high (thinning required)
Life of planting – 50+ years
Machine harvest potential – none
Suitable markets – primarily fresh

Shinseiki in bloom
‘Shinseiki’ in bloom

Notable features

Nutritional highlights – vitamins C, K; dietary fiber
Adaptability – variable
Pest issues – coddling moth, fire blight susceptibility variable
Invasive potential – none
Environmental benefits – unknown

Potential in an integrated fruit system

Shared management – medium (fruit thinning important)
Shared equipment – medium (care to avoid spread of fire blight)
Shared processing – not applicable
Co-marketing – low to medium (special handling)

Integration potential – some

Tree-ripened, locally grown fruit could command premiums in a local/regional marketing system with a short supply chain to reduce handling and preserve quality.

Dormant Hosui
Dormant ‘Hosui’

History and background

Asian pears are native to countries in Asia. They have been cultivated for more than 2,000 years in China, where more than 3,000 cultivars are currently grown. They have also been grown in Japan since at least the 8th century. Asian pears have been in America for about 200 years, first used as ornamentals and later to hybridize with European pears for fire blight resistance.

In Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden, Lee Reich said, “Although the genes of Asian pears are dispersed in hybrids, the fruits themselves still are relatively unknown outside Asia.” Asian pears are crisp, juicy and delicious fresh, but they have limited use as a processed fruit. They become mushy and flavorless when cooked due to high moisture content. They can be dried and are sometimes used to marinate meat. Because of their high sugar content, they are also used as a sweetener in sauces.

Observations at Carandale Farm

Three cultivars are being observed at the Carandale test plot, all of Japanese parentage (Pyrus pyrifolia).

‘Shinseiki’ was purchased from One Green World in 2003. This variety is susceptible to fire blight, and one of the two trees purchased died the first year after planting. The remaining tree has shown no sign of fire blight. It is not unusual for trees to become more resistant to fire blight when they start fruiting and have less vigorous vegetative growth. The fruit ripens in August and is sweet, flavorful and refreshingly juicy. The tree bears consistently, but needs thinning for good fruit size and quality. It even produced a few fruit in 2012 when the bloom on its European pear pollinator was frozen.

‘Housi’ and ‘Large Korean’ were purchased from Miller Nurseries in 2008. Two trees of each were purchased and planted as pairs for cross-pollination at two locations in the test plot. Trees near the ‘Shinseiki’ pear died in the first year from an unknown cause. ‘Large Korean’ is considered to have excellent resistance to fire blight. At the other location, both trees survived transplant but have been slow to establish. They looked healthy in 2012 and started to make substantial growth, but after four years are far behind ‘Shinseiki’ at the same age.

The difference in adaptability and growth response may have little to do with cultivars. It is more likely that plant quality (caliper and root structure) and rootstock selection were greater factors. ‘Shinseiki’ is on OH X F/531 rootstock, but the rootstock for ‘Housi’ and ‘Large Korean’ is not documented. Neither of these two cultivars have fruited as of 2012.

Discussion

Asian pear was included in the test plot to test environmental adaptability and compare fruit quality of locally grown, tree-ripened fruit to fruit in traditional food chains. ‘Shinseiki’ was selected because of its cold hardiness, fruit quality and growth characteristics. It has fruited consistently since the second year after planting, with excellent fruit quality.

‘Housi’ and ‘Large Korean’ (also known as ‘Korean Giant’ or ‘Olympic’) were added in 2008 after initial testing appeared to be positive for including Asian pear as a possible addition to an integrated production system. When these start fruiting, there will be more information to share about the economic sustainability of this minor fruit for local/regional marketing.

References

Wikipedia entry on Asian Pear
Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden, by Lee Reich
USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Asian Pear
Growing and Using Asian Pears,” Wallace P. Howell, Washington State University, Benton-Franklin County

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