Growing Pears in Virginia
Pear is the second most important deciduous tree fruit after apple, and it has been grown in Europe since prehistoric times. Pears belong to the genus Pyrus and probably originated near the Black and Caspian Seas. French and English colonists brought pears to America and the first record of pears in the North America was in Massachusetts in 1630. Although pear is a popular fruit, it is not grown as widely as apple. Pears can be grown throughout much of North America because they tolerate a wide range of climatic conditions. However, commercial production is largely limited to the west coast states. One of the major limiting factors for commercial pear production is the bacterial disease known as fireblight [Erwinia amilovora (Burrill)]. Humid conditions in the eastern U.S. favor development of this disease that can kill pear trees. There now exist several pear varieties that possess varying levels of fireblight resistance, making pear production possible in the east.
Two types of pears can be grown in Virginia. European pears (Pyrus communis) are the type most commonly seen in the supermarkets. Common varieties include ‘Bartlett’, D’Anjou’, ‘Bosc’ and ‘Comice’. These pears are picked when mature but before they are ripe, then they are exposed to a chilling period, and then ripened. The flesh of the ripe fruit is usually soft and mealy. Asian pears were developed from several Pyrus species, but are usually considered to belong to the genus Pyrus and the species serotina. Asian pears are sometimes marketed as “Sand pears”, “Chinese pears”, “Japanese pears”, or “apple pears”. Asian pears are usually fairly round and ripen on the tree. The flesh is usually white, crisp, sweet, and juicy. Asian
pears are best eaten after being held in the refrigerator for a day or two. Then the fruit is peeled, cored, and sliced.