What Are Asian Pears?

(Source: Baconygardenweb)

Like apple, nectarine, and peach trees, Asian pears are members of the rose or Rosaceae family. They are also sometimes called P. serotina.

To set fruit, these deciduous trees require around 300-500 chill hours at temperatures lower than 45°F each winter, which isn’t too hard to achieve even in the warmer climates of Zone 8 or 9.

They blossom with fragrant white petals in the springtime and, depending on the cultivar and growing conditions, produce fruit four to seven months later. Asian pear trees can take between three to five years to begin producing fruit after propagation.

Like apples, each fruit contains five seeds. Unlike European pears (P. communis), Asian varieties don’t turn soft and mushy when ripe. They ripen on the tree and maintain a crisp, juicy texture.

Asian pears are either round with greenish-yellow skin, round with bronze skin, or pear-shaped with green or brown skin, depending on the cultivar you are growing.

But they all have that delicious and enduring crunch that Bartletts can only dream of and that some of us prefer over the texture of a European pear.

Despite some cultivars producing fruit reminiscent of an apple, the Asian pear is not a hybrid with this fruit. Botanically, it is a true pear. I love it because I prefer firm and crisp varieties of this fruit, and if that’s your preference, you will too.

For best results, you will need to plant two varieties that bloom at the same time for pollination. Some cultivars, such as ‘Shinseiki,’ ‘20th Century,’ and ‘Tennosui,’ are self-pollinating.

Most other varieties require cross-pollination. Even in the case of self-pollinating cultivars, cross-pollination leads to much bigger harvests.

Pairings that work well together for pollination purposes are:

  • Early-blooming ‘Shinseiki’ and ‘Yoinashi’
  • Mid-blooming ‘Ichiban Nashi’ and ‘Shinsui’
  • Late-blooming ‘Chojuro’ and ‘Hosui’

Asian pears can also cross-pollinate with European pears. Asian variety ‘20th Century,’ for example, blooms at about the same time as ‘Bartlett,’ and ‘Chojuro’ blooms with ‘Anjou.’

Planting a P. pyrifolia alongside a European variety can also encourage more honeybees flock to both trees, as they’re typically more attracted to European varieties.

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