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Pear history

There is convincing archaeological evidence from excavations by ancient Swiss lake dwellers that the European pear, Pyrus communis L., was known to that civilization. The pear is believed to have been known to prehistoric man, but there is no agreement as to whether the apple came first or the pear. The ancient pear tree of Europe was fundamentally different from the Asian pear tree, Prunus pyrifolia.

English records show that in 1629 “the Massachusetts Company sent pear stones to the New England settlers” to plant and grow into trees in Plymouth, MA.

On March 30, 1763, the famous American George Mason made an entry in his extensive garden diary: “He grafted 10 black Worchester pears from Collo … these are a large (thick) baking fruit” and the old variety of French pear.

Fort Frederica on Saint Simons Island, Georgia, was established by English settlers in 1733, at the same time that the city of Savannah was established. In order to allow settlers to have self-sufficient food reserves, General Oglethorpe developed a plan to introduce trees and plants for cultivation in both temperate and subtropical climates that would prove valuable for future farms and orchards of fruit and nut trees in Georgia. These targets were reported according to William Bartram in his book, Travels, which was published in 1773, 40 years later. John Bartram, William Bartram’s father and traveling companion, made his research trip to eastern Florida, Carolina, and Georgia in part to investigate resources and plant inventories abandoned by the Spanish to the English as colonial acquisitions.

The Prince Nursery was established as the first American nursery for the collection, cultivation and sale of plants and trees in Flushing, New York in 1737, the Prince Nursery announced “42 pear trees for sale in 1771.”

John Bartram planted the seed of a pear tree in 1793, and this ancient tree grew and produced fruit until 1933.

The great American botanist hybridizer and writer of his epic and monumental 12-volume account of his observations on plant development over many years by Luther Burbank stated that there were basically two genetic lines of pears that he and others had used to improve the commercial quality of plants. pear trees and their fruiting. The European pear, Pyrus communis L., the Asian pear, Pyrus pyrifolia, also called Korean pear, Japanese pear, Chinese pear, and Taiwanese pear. These were crossed to obtain a recombination of genes to filter the complex mixtures of traits that, hopefully, would produce superior fruits.

Bartram wrote in his ‘Fruit Improvement’ about a chance pear hybrid that appeared on a farm near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as a result of a European pear and the Chinese sand pear that had been planted on the farm as ornamental garden trees. This hybrid was produced on the estate of Mr. Peter Kieffer, which is why it is named after the first hybrid oriental pear tree. The “Kieffer” pear has a pleasant aroma; It is a beautiful, graceful tree with huge white flowers, but this pear is best when cooked in preserves or cakes because of its firmness. Resistance to cold and disease make this pear a valuable crop that remains one of the best-selling pear trees even today.

Other oriental pear trees that made their way into popular nursery mail order catalogs were the Le Conte, Garber and Smith pear trees. These pear trees became standard cultivars for garden plantations in the Gulf State, where European pear trees do not grow well.

Other varieties of pears developed in California were described as being huge in size, with delicate colors, fragrance, and excellent quality. One of these hybrid pears was nine inches tall and weighed five pounds, a single fruit.

Burbank noted that the commercial pear trade disapproves of large pears due to packaging, grading, and shipping issues, and the average pear buyer is often less likely to buy large pears. The northwestern United States produces the most commercial pears, generally due to the exceptional dessert quality of the fruit. The oldest sensation in the pear market is Bartlett (Williams), who grows in a group called “Winter Pears,” which includes other varieties. Comice, D’Anjou, Bosc, Red D’Anjou and Concorde pears. These cultivars have a very restricted area of ​​successful growth, due to their fragile European parentage to pears, Pyrus communis, and are not recommended for cultivation in most regions of the United States.

The pear tree is unique as a fruit that does not wilt and is easily recognizable from its normal description that refers to the shape of the fruit, “pear-shaped”, a specific shape that everyone understands. Pear buyers are highly predisposed to buying a pear in the shape they are used to and often reject the Asian pear, ‘Pyrus pyrifolia, a round or apple-shaped fruit. The texture of pears is unique among fruits along with the aroma, taste and the idea that pears (European clones) must be cut from the tree to ripen later; whereas, it is best to leave Asian pears on the trees to ripen and develop their full flavor.

The skin of pears grows in a wide range of colors, green, yellow, orange, red and mottled, and this forms a great protective shield against the eyes of birds and other animals. Pear trees require longer periods of maturity to start bearing fruit than most fruit trees, but the tree will produce sooner if it is grafted into a dwarf quince stock; however, most tree dealers offer semi-dwarf trees for sale, and of course, larger trees begin to bear fruit earlier than small trees. Asian pear trees produce fruit earlier than trees with European pear ancestry. One factor that has delayed the spread of pear trees since ancient times is the fact that the seeds show poor germination success unless wet and most travelers on the old “Silk Road” trade routes They dry the seed to sell or exchange it.

US fruit buyers have shown a dramatic and growing interest in buying fresh pears at the grocery store over the past 25 years. USDA resources indicate that per capita consumption of fresh table-quality pears has increased more than most fruits, while the purchase of fresh peaches has decreased. Fresh pears can be kept at temperatures close to freezing for up to 5 months for the consumer to purchase later. For backyard gardeners, pear trees can grow 20 to 30 feet on semi-dwarf rootstocks and are well adapted to growing in most soils, even poorly drained soils, preferably in a pH range of 6 to 7. Pear trees they will grow and tolerate temperatures of negative 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Burbank made a lot of strange crosses with pear trees. Crossed pears with apples and quinces; however, these hybrid trees did not grow to produce acceptable fruit.

Pear fruits contain antioxidants and are fat-free, with health benefits of vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin C, niacin, and the minerals calcium, phosphorus, iron, and potassium.

Many cultivars of pears are recommended for planting. Peral Ayers, Peral Baldwin, Peral Columbus Red, Peral Floridahome, Peral Hood, Peral Kieffer, Peral Leconte, Peral Moonglow, Peral Orient, Peral Piña, Peral Sand and Peral Warren. Four varieties of Asian pears are also planted: the Korean giant pear, the Hosui pear, the Shinseiki pear and the 20th century pear.

There are also four varieties of flowering and fruitless pears. Bradford Pear Tree Blossom, Cleveland Pear Blossom, Aristocrat Pear Blossom, and Autumn Blaze Blossom Pears.

Copyright 2006 Patrick Malcolm

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