European and Asian pears

Pears (Pyrus species) share many quirks and characteristics with apples, and they grow in similar climates. Like apples, pears are usually sold as grafted trees and require similar pruning and training. With their glossy dark green foliage, pears make especially good landscape specimens in addition to providing delicious fruit.

You can choose between European and Asian pears. They share most cultural attributes but differ in some other ways:

  • Pollination: Most European pears require another variety planted within 50 feet for cross-pollination. Asian pears are mostly self-fruitful but produce heavier crops when cross-pollinated.
  • Shape: European pear fruits have the traditional pear shape, with a wide bottom tapering to a narrower top. Most Asian pears resemble round apples.
  • Texture: European pears have soft, melting flesh when ripe. Asian pears have crisp, applelike flesh.

Unfortunately, pears also share many diseases and insect pests with apples. Fire blight is its most devastating disease, and pear scab can render the trees and fruit unsightly. Avoid planting fire-blight-prone varieties, and control insect pests that spread the disease. Pear psylla, an insect that resembles a winged yellow-to-orange aphid, sucks the juice out of new foliage and excretes sticky droppings that support a black, sooty-looking fungus. You can control it with dormant spray oil and beneficial insects.

Fire-blight-resistant varieties of European pear, listed in order of ripening, include Harrow Delight, Harvest Queen, Starking Delicious, Moonglow, Stark Honeysweet, Magness, Seckel, and Harrow Sweet. The earliest varieties begin ripening in mid-August in Zone 5, with the latest finishing up in late September. Disease-resistant Asian varieties include Shinko, Shinseiki, Large Korean (also known as Dan Beh), Korean Giant, and Olympic.

Pears are best picked when they're still somewhat hard and allowed to ripen at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Fruit that overripens on the tree develops hard, gritty spots in the flesh and may turn brown and mushy near the core. Asian pears and late-season European pears keep for months in the refrigerator if they're picked just before ripeness.

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