Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Question for Kitchen Gardeners & Fruities:
Do You Have a Pear Tree Growing on Your Property?

Pears not perfect? Make my moist and flavorful 100% Whole Grain Ginger Pear Bran Muffins

Talk about a fruitful investment. A healthy pear tree can produce pears for over 100 years, and each year you may get literally hundreds of pounds of sweet and juicy bounty.

Many pear trees require a second tree to act as a pollinizer, though Bartlett pears—which are the nation's leading pear variety—are self-pollinating and don't even require the assistance of bees.

Do you have a pear tree or trees? Please tell us about them! Let us know what kind you have, what age they are, what sort of bounty you get, or whatever you like.

Commercial pears are picked when they're mature but still hard and are then cooled down to slow the ripening process. Hard fruits obviously fare better on their way from orchard to market, but pears actually ripen better off the tree.

Do you pick your pears when they're still hard? How do you like to store them?

Any pear tips or tricks? Things you wish you'd known when you first planted or inherited your tree(s) are especially welcome.

Previous Questions for Kitchen Gardeners & Foodies:
How Big Is Your Garden and How Much Food Does It Provide?
What Kind(s) of Eggplant Do You Like to Grow and Eat?

©, the fruity foodie farm blog where we've found that bruised and battered overripe pears often taste the best. They're sweet and flavorful, and studies have shown they're full of extra antioxidants when past perfection. Which would technically make the imperfect ones perfect—except for the looks part.


  1. I don't have one, but my parents do on my stepdad's farm in upstate NY. It's old, absolutely gigantic, and gives hundreds and hundreds of pears per year.

    I'm fairly sure that due to the size, they don't actually pick most of the bounty; they just pick up what falls to the ground. Usually they are slightly hard, slightly grainy in texture.

    Sometimes we have in-season fruit tarts and fruit salads, but mostly they are canned in the evenings while listening to Yankee games on the radio. Plain, in quarters, in their own syrup. Mom gets between 100 and 200 quarts a year, on average. :)

  2. I've got few dwarf pears. Only one has ever produced. The others get fire blight really easily and have never gotten very large.

    I have an old Organic Gardening book that says the Starking Delicious (by Stark Brothers, out your way) is the best choice. It happens to be the variety that produces for me. I should probably get a few more.

    And, of course, the sheep managed to get at this one productive tree and nearly strip the trunk of all bark last year.

  3. I'm so excited I stumbled on your site the other day. You sound like my kind of gardener and cook. I have two pear trees coming from Fedco Trees, a Bosc and a Seckel.

    This'll be my first venture into big fruit trees. I'll be following this post to make sure my trees get off to a good start. I wonder when I'll be able to pick my first pear. Thanks for a great site.

  4. I bought a pear tree about 5 years ago from a mail order company. I found out the two years later that it needed a pollinator, so I bought a different variety (first was a Green Jade, second a Honey Sweet-I think). Then the Honey Sweet died. So I got a replacement. The year I got it, the Green Jade made about 11 of the most delicious pears ever! Without a pollinator! (I'm fairly certain no on around me has a pear tree) I picked them when they were still hard (I had to do some research on them, as I had no idea how or when to harvest them) and let them sit on my counter for a bit. They were probably the best pears I've ever had, and even my husband, who doesn't 'do fruit' much, liked them! Hopefully, the tree will make more this coming year!

  5. My husband and I inherited a pear tree (only one, so it must not need a mate) when we bought our house 2 years ago. The first year we were there we had a very late frost that pretty much destroyed everything attempting to grow. To be honest, we didn't even know it WAS a pear tree.

    But the second year the tree exploded with fruit - we couldn't even keep up with it all. We ate a lot right off the branches, the dogs had their fair share (of fruit that had fallen), we gave some away, and then I made this amazing pear-cardamom butter from a recipe on The Traveler's Lunchbox blog. Such an amazing combination of flavors - and fabulous on homemade biscuits.

  6. We have some old, old pear trees on our place, but only one of them gives nice pears and that one is a Bartlett. It produces most years. They are usually small, but very sweet and good. We pick them green around Labor Day and leave them in a box in the garage. As they ripen...You gently press on the stem and bottom end to tell....I can them and or dry them. I make pear butter sometimes, but it's easy to get ahead of myself in the jam and jelly department. Susan, I have made your wonderful Pear Muffins many times and LOVE them. I feel so healthy when I eat one and they are yummy, too. I took them to a gathering once and people liked them so well that they wanted the recipe. I love when that happens!

    If we don't pick the Bartletts green, they ripen from the inside out. When you open one, they are mushy and brown inside and yucky. The deer don't seem to mind when the extras fall to the ground.

    I like the sound of Windchimes Green Jade pear. Maybe we should plant a new one.

  7. I have a few pear trees, they were already here when I bought the property. I don't know what kind they are but there are couple of big trees that get small pears pretty early in the season and not very edible - They never seem to get soft and ripe. Then there are 2 smaller trees that get so loaded with pears that the branches start bending down to the ground! These pears are very sweet and juicy. I usually wait till they are ripe before picking. I can or freeze part of the bounty each year.

    Every year I get a great crop from these 2 small trees except for last year. Deer and squirrels never touch the fruit but last year my crop was decimated by crows! Crows?! They carried off nearly every single pear on the tree!! Hopefully they won't be back this year but if they do come back, maybe I can try netting? I haven't really looked into that yet.

  8. We have a pear tree on our property that was probably planted by the original owners about 35 years ago - I think it's a Bartlett. It produces a lot of pears but I can't even reach most of them. I've had problems with some insect issues but to be honest haven't ever done anything about it because I still have more pears than my family wants to eat and the birds get their fair share too.
    I'll admit cherry and apricot trees are the ones I get excited about though - YUM!

  9. I have one pear tree that I became caretaker of when we bought this property 10 years ago. It is a Bartlett and its pears are delicious. We eat them mostly fresh and the remainder I freeze (as a quickly cooked sauce) to use for making a delicious and simple pear cake thoughout the year. It is, I would guess, about 20 years old and stands guard in the far corner of my garden.
    In my area there is a program that tries to get homeowners to spray their trees (or strip them or cut them down) in order to reduce coddling moth but I have found that I can get quite good results with organic methods of coddling moth prevention.

  10. I have a Williams Bon Chretien trained into a double-u cordon shape. Currently it's growing in a large half-barrel against the house. Last year was the first year I'd had it, I'm hoping for fruit this year! I keep toying with the idea of planting a second and training into a step-over espalier.

  11. no pear trees yet but I should be receiving my order in a few weeks! We are just starting an orchard and over the next 2 years will be getting about 15 trees. Bartlett pears are on the list and I'm so excited. Currently I buy pears to can for winter eating. We love plain old canned husband will eat a whole quart in one sitting! and I like a fresh pear tart. So good!

  12. I USED to have 2 pear trees on my property -- a Seckel & a Bosc. But over the last 2 years, Fire Blight killed both of them off. I spoke to our local Extension service about this & the master gardener there said that it could be because of our warming climate that this occurred. I'm still upset over the loss of these 2 beautiful trees & I'm afraid to plant more at this point.

  13. What a fortuitous blog prompt -- I just yesterday planted our very first (European) pear trees in our kitchen garden! We ordered them through our local, Oregon Home Orchard Society ( and are planning on espaliering them (either in a Belgian fence or candelabra). The varieties are comice & this tasty Italian varietal whose name I always misspell (precoce di martinotti? marinetti? meh.).

    We also have two 5 year-old Asian pears of mysterious variety that occasionally produce sweet, gorgeous fruit the size of your head (and sometimes small, and wormy golf-ball like things).

  14. We do have one, tucked behind the apple and (dying) cherry tree. It's been there as long as my husband can remember, so at least 30 years, and it makes a ton of fruit - unfortunately, most of it too high to reach without a very very tall ladder.

    Pick them ripe or hard?

    These pears ripen at 2am on a moonless night and are over-ripe by 2:30. We pick the ones that have fallen down to the ground and are not obviously rotten, and eat the few sweet bites we can get that don't have big brown spots.

    Sometimes we get ambitious and take out the ladder, pick a bunch that are still hard, then stare at them for days as they sit in our kitchen, doing... well, nothing, as far as we can tell.

    From what we can gather, these ones also pick up the magic 2am signal and go from hard and sour to overripe and squishy in about an hour in the middle of the night. Sigh.

    When I can get some good, not-too-hard, not-too-soft ones, I peel and slice them and make them into delicious pear cobbler. But mostly we consider them food for the local wildlife.

  15. Well, I'm not sure I'll be all that helpful, but I'll add our 2 pear trees into the mix. We just planted our two trees last year - a Seckel and a Vermont Beauty (from Fedco). The Vermont Beauty didn't look too great last year (not sure what got to it), but both are full of expanding buds, so we'll watch them closely this year. We have about an acre of land and have 2 apples that came with the house, a peach (a cling of unknown origins - from my dad's compost pile - 7 years old and produces like crazy!), and now the two pears. Looking forward to our eventual harvests (and your yummy muffin recipe!)

  16. My IL's have a Bartlett that they are sweet enough to share with us. Our favorite things to do with pears besides fresh eating? I make a gingered pear crisp that doesn't last long, especially with a little vanilla ice cream or whipped real cream. I also like them dried. DH makes a meaty dish with dried fruit, including pears, and soy sauce or balsamic vinegar (I think). I'll have to ask him later. Sounds gross but tastes good.

  17. The pears almost killed me last fall, and only one tree bore anything worth worrying about. I hate peeling pears and dealing with the sugar syrup. But I love canned pears, so I suck it up.

    We have Seckel (which I love), red Anjou, and Bosc. It was the Bosc tree that produced so much fruit last year, despite very little care from us. I canned 40 quarts in heavy syrup, gave away a ton, and ate a bunch. I also canned some Asian pears our neighbor had. I was not impressed with them. They're hard and these were bland, though I don't know if all Asian pears are so bland. So I made spiced pears with those.

    We pick them hard and then store them until they ripen. Last year I stored them in the wheel barrow (professional, I know), until it was needed again, and then I just had huge bowls of them all over the place.

    The yields tend to be kind of cyclical. Since last year was such a good year for them, we probably won't have so many this year. Also, the sheep are VERY VERY BAD and killed some of the smaller trees, which will also reduce the amount.

    A suggestion: If you have livestock and want to have fruit trees, don't get dwarf varieties. Get the standards so the animals won't be able to destroy the trees when they're full grown. No, I'm not bitter.

  18. At our old house,we had some pear trees and they gave us TONS of fruits.

    Our favorite way to eat them was fresh and we made "Pear Squares" instead of date squares. Delicious!

    We had to give most of them away to friends and Food Banks.


  19. I don't have a pear tree but can I say I'm so happy you are writing a cookbook. I've never been disappointed in any recipe I've tried of yours and I wish you all the luck!

  20. Yes, we have a pear tree in the back yard. It was here and established when we arrived 10 years ago. It fruits every year, no spray needed, and no pests bother it except the wasps that arrive when the fruit ripen. I bottle (can) all I need, the kids start eating them when they are still hard, and sell what they can at the road side. I would plant a pear tree before an apple tree because of the no fuss experience with this tree. The two apple trees in the yard both get black spot and coddling moth. The pears are ripe right now, so I'll be trying your pear muffins tonight.
    Corrine in New Zealand

  21. I bought an Asian Pear three seasons ago and it started producing the very next year. The neat thing about it is that it has two varieties grafted into one tree : one side produces smaller but earlier pears and the other large and latter.

    The tree is small ( 6-7') but produces from 20-30 pears. Asian pears do not get soft like the standard pear and they're round like an apple. In fact I've seen fruit markets label them as "apple pears" which leads some to the mistaken conclusion that they are a mix of the two fruits. Asian pears are crisp and delicious; great for adding to salads and when refrigerated can last an amazing length of time.

    I apply the organic Fox Farms Fruit and Flower each Spring.

    In addition to enjoying the fruit I love the shiny leaves and Spring blossoms.

  22. I love fresh pears, but it is difficult to tell when they are ripe. They ripen from the inside out so when the pear becomes just a little softer the inside has gone over. Difficult!

  23. When we moved into our present home, we were very much thankful for the gorgeous pear tree in our backyard! It is about 15 years old and produces Barlett pears every year; about 60-90 lbs. We pick them when hard and store them to ripen. I enjoy making pear butters, pear sauces, and use them in baking. What a joy to have this tree!

  24. We had a pear tree at my parent's house. I only remember it flowering once or twice in my lifetime.

    A couple of years ago, my then husband-to-be and I pruned it and bought another for cross pollination. Next year it gave them 4 or 5 pears! Biggest thing we learned was the importance of pruning for fruit and also of pruning to reduce fire blight.

    I had read about ripening pears off the tee, and the birds were starting to get them anyway, so that's what we did. We picked them while they were just starting to blush and let them ripen on the windowsill. Not enough to do anything but eat out of hand. Delicious all the same!

  25. I have a pair of asian pear trees. Because of the location I live, I need plants that are hardy in growing zone 4. So I purchased the asian pears instead of the typical pears. My trees were just planted last year and may not produce for a few more years.

    I can't wait to try out different recipes for using pears.

  26. Well, I'd like to thank you all for this information! I'm planning on planting a small orchard on a 2 acre field we have, probably next spring. I figured we'd get a couple of apples, pears, and cherries and maybe a peach or plum, but I wasn't sure what varieties to look at, so this gives me some place to start.

  27. We don't have a pear tree (ours is apple) but we go to our farmers' market every week and pick up local produce we don't grow, like pears.

    The best pear trick I have heard/learned is to use super over ripe pears in Jiffy cornbread mix with some cinnamon. It tastes great, cheaper than dirt, and all the gooey pear moisture keeps the cornbread much more muffin-like.

  28. We moved into our home last summer and by fall, the fruit harvest was out of control. I've never been a big fan of pears but we have three mature trees and two young ones (all full sized varieties). The three mature ones are bartlett and we were overwhelmed with fruit last year (not to mention the blackberries, apples and grapes!). I quickly learned to can and we dried and canned as many as we could. Had I known how incredible home-canned pears would taste in January, I'd have canned way more! We've used up all of them already and our trees are only just starting to bloom. :-)

    I have been using the dried pears in anything that calls for any type of dried fruit (since we have so much). I just chop it to whatever size is necessary and it works wonderfully.

    Next year, we plan to pick the pears hard and let them ripen in the cool basement. We did give boxes full to friends with pigs, and our goats love them too...but our hope is that if we start sooner, we'll be able to store more for ourselves before they go to mush on us. ;-)


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

Welcome to! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love to hear about what's going on in your own garden. I know, too, that other readers also delight in reading about your garden successes, failures, helpful tips, and lessons learned. Feel free to leave comments on older posts!

I try my best to answer all questions, but sometimes it takes me a few days to get to them. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your visits to my kitchen garden!