Asian Pears

Facts About Asian Pears

Asian pears are becoming very popular in the United States. Most people attribute this to the fact that more and more Asians are making the U.S. their home. The majority of the plantings of Asian pears in the United States are in California, Oregon and Washington State. They have been grown for thousands of years in China and Japan. Japan alone grows over 500,000 tons every year.

The green pears that most of us normally buy in supermarkets are known as European pears. Asian pears differ from these in several ways. First of all, most Asian pears have a different shape--they look remarkably like apples. Not only do they look like apples, they have the crunchiness of an apple with its slightly tart flavor. Most European pears are shipped before they ripen, and when they ripen at home they become soft. Not so with Asian pears. They also do not take on the texture of what we think of as a normal pear--grainy--they stay smooth inside.

Asian pears have a number of other names, such as apple pears, salad pears, Nashi, Oriental, Chinese, or Japanese pears. All Asian pears that are produced today are in the Pyrus serotina family. Generally, 200 trees are planted for each acre of land. They are only partly self-pollinating, so more than one kind of Asian pear tree must be planted for pollination to take place.  Trees take up quite a lot of room--they should be at least twelve feet apart and the rows should be at least eighteen feet apart.

Trees that bear Asian pears are pruned and trained to grow in different shapes depending on where they are located. For instance, in California Asian pear trees are grown to be shaped like a vase. In other places, they are pruned to look Christmas tree shaped.

One of the most popular Asia pear trees in the United States is named “20th Century.” It is a Japanese cultivar that pollinates well, and it can withstand temperatures that go as low as twenty degrees in winter. It produces yellow, round Asian pears. This fruit bruises easily and is picked by hand as are most Asian pear types. The pear will store for as long as six months when kept in the right conditions.

Asian Pears, like other fruits depend on the health of the tree to produce well year after year. Diseases and pests are particularly hard on all types of fruit trees. Asian pears can get fireblight. This is usually controlled by spraying the trees with antibiotic materials that fight fireblight, such as Streptomycin or Terramycin. This should be done for a couple of months during and after bloom, and again after pears have been picked. Pruning when the plant is dormant to remove dead wood will prevent the disease from reoccurring. Codling moths, stink bugs, and spider mites are all pests that bother Asian pears from time to time.
Although Asian pears were introduced in the United States to meet the needs of Asian buyers, it is anticipated that the market will continue to grow by winning over other consumers who also do not like to wait for European-type pears to ripen.