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 Extending the fresh pear season by 4-6 months 
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Joined: Mon Mar 08, 2010 6:38 pm
Posts: 30
Post Extending the fresh pear season by 4-6 months
Here's the text I dropped into a quick info sheet to help people make sense of the plethora of pear scion we had available in Eugene this past Saturday. And, by the by, it was wonderful having Shaun S. down from Portland to graft with us and to formally initiate event organizers into the traditional end-of-cleanup ritual of cracking open a bottle of cider! Hic.

Oh, and 'm curious. Is there an (un)official pear working group operating within HOS, or do we sorta kinda fall back upon Joseph P. in Corvallis for matters pyriformesque?

n

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Fresh, locally-grown pears in winter

Typically, fruit catalogs from the 1800's would emphasize winter as distinct from summer pears - a reflection, perhaps, of the much longer 'window' in which winter pears were traditionally eaten - November through as long as May, perhaps.

Pears, generally, are tougher to store and ripen well than apples and, with the advent of commercial 'controlled atmosphere’ (CA) storage in the past 80-90 years, along with ‘agribiz’ focus on growing and selling an extremely limited number of commercial pear varieties, the knowhow relating to the proper culture, harvest and storage of winter pears at the homestead/home level has been lost to us.

Local vs. ‘Agribiz’ knowhow

Much of this gnosis was highly regional: at its most evolved level, it takes experience about the performance of varieties locally, to determine, crucially, the optimal time to pick pears so that they are neither picked too early or too late. Harvested too soon, pears will be hard, gritty and without flavor: too late, and they will mealy and rotten at the core. There exists no substantive literature - old or modern - to help us find our way. What's more, modern-day pear-storage experts know little more than the rest of us, as funded research efforts have focused on controlled atmosphere storage for most of the past 90 years. Furthermore, popular commercial varieties, ripened with controlled atmospheres, do not always lend themselves well to home storage - Forelle being a good example of a commercial pear (grown especially for its attractive coloring) that has consistently failed to properly ripen for me. However, we are discovering non-commercial pears which are very forgiving with their harvest times and which ripen up well under extremely basic storage conditions (an outside shelf on my porch).

Culinary and dessert pears

What we do know is that winter pears were traditionally divided into two basic types - culinary pears for cooking or stewing, and dessert pears for fresh eating. Culinary pears appear to be the long-haulers of the pear-world, storing perhaps as late as May-June or longer. Typically with hard, coarse flesh, these pears would be baked for 1-2 hours to make them palatably delicious. We have only the most cursory of information about how this was done. In my conversations with the relatives of original Oregon settler families, it appears that our great-grandparents' homesteading generation had already commonly lost the ability to recognize storage varieties in orchards, never mind know what to do with them. This class of pear offers an absolutely fascinating long-term research project for anyone interested in reclaiming an essential, highly valued feature of traditional diets. We have several mainstay old culinary varieties available at the scion exchange.
Winter culinary pears:

Belle Angevine
Belmont
Bellisime D'Hiver
Catillac
Pound

In my own efforts researching winter pears in recent years (yum!) I am finding that some storage pears described in databases as 'culinary' are actually excellent dessert pears wrongly categorized. Certainly, I am finding that whereas the records of others are providing useful pointers, my own experience is revealing a different, highly-promising picture relating to fresh-pear eating throughout the winter.

Storing pears through December is not a great challenge - October through December is my prime pear-eating season of the year. The challenge picks up very markedly when we try to carry pears through the New Year into the spring. In forthcoming years, as my experience around pear culture, harvest and storage, improves, I hope to extend my fresh pear availability through late spring.

Here is a list of winter dessert pears (available at the scion exchange) that have shown promise for me in my recent storage-research efforts into approximately 100 late season pears. Most, especially those which hold promise for homestead storage into the spring, are not commercially available. I do hope you are tempted to join me in this delicious cultural adventure.

Winter dessert pears:

Bosc
Anjou
Beurre Superfin
Bon Chretien Bonnamour
Doyenne du Comice
Count W.A. Moltke
Scipiona
Beurre Hardy
Aniversarea
General Le Clerc
Emile d'Heyst
Lawrence
Duchesse Bronzee
Madame Andre Leroy
Eletta Morettini
Louise Bonne d'Avranches
Winkleman
Dana Hovey
Duchesse d'Angeloume
Le Lectier
Arabitka
Dorset
Vicar of Winkfield
Doyenne d'Hiver (Beurre Easter)
Passe Crassane
Beurre d'Avril


Sun Mar 14, 2010 8:51 pm
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Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1334
Location: Portland, OR
Post Re: Extending the fresh pear season by 4-6 months
Excellent post, Nick. I take the challenge, and though I am already several years behind you, I am interested in trying to find out which of these pear varieties will work as winter storage pears. Seeing as we have the Corvallis clonal germplasm repository for pears nearby, we are arguably the people most equipped to perform this useful service to society. If it requires me to find out by eating several varieties of delicious pears, I am willing to sacrifice for the planet:). I did get some scions at the scion exchange, but I think I will try to intergraft yet more quince/pears soon. This is particularly useful for us who like to garden/eat organically. I do think this effort will require some aggressive guerrilla pear planting though, and this is the kind of dangerous gardening that excites me. I have never heard of an unofficial or otherwise pear group in the HOS.
John S
PDX OR


Sun Mar 14, 2010 10:55 pm
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Joined: Mon Mar 08, 2010 6:38 pm
Posts: 30
Post Re: Extending the fresh pear season by 4-6 months
Well, one plus one makes two, so I sense that means we now have an hofficial winter pear Kommittee. Hurrah. Pithy, non-gritty, venous slogans on T-shirts to follow.

We had Joseph Postman, curator of the pear repository, present at Saturday's event in Eugene and in my brief intro to the fellah I found myself spontaneously putting order to some thoughts that had been lurking in the netherworld chaostrophy of the void that is my brain. I've been pondering more, since.

One aspect I harped on about in my intro is the repository's truly global reach. Most national repositories around the world focus on domestic varieties whereas the Corvallis site is a quintessentially American phenomenon - gathering a glorious hodgepodge of characters from around the globe, providing, in essence, a home to a unique array of diversity available in one place, nowhere else.

Now, the remit of the USDA's National Plant Germplasm System as I understand it is essentially to gather and sustain genetic diversity: it is not to research kickass varieties for home/homestead production in the PNW or elsewhere. That onus falls elsewhere and, as far as I can make out, ain't nobody really doing it too earnestly - at our bioregional level, at least. One Green World pulling a red-fleshed pear out of the repository does not a movement make.

Which rather begs the question. What of this simply astounding global resource and its relevance to us? My sense is that the repository's potential for supporting the reinhabitory foodshed movement here, and elsewhere, is vastly underappreciated, hence vastly underutilized. For example, my own continuing efforts to feed myself fresh, locally grown fruit, year-round have alerted me to a) the phenomenon of winter storage (gadzooks!) b) the fact that apples and pears lend themselves wonderfully to filling the New Year through late-spring-early summer gap c) the fact that we know little about how to do this well d) we know _nothing_ about how to carry pears forward e) a mindboggling array of relevant material sourced from the world over lurks in the pear repository, essentially unnoticed e) the good works of Joseph and his helpers, many of whom include HOSers, have provided us with extremely useful observational data about how these trees perform _locally_ and, furthermore, Joseph has made an exceptional effort to make this information available online f) Joseph is a most amenable fellow who has been very supportive of grassroots efforts such as ours. Simply put, the repository gifts us a globally unparalleled array of knowhow and resources which includes direct access to world-class, locally-proven winter storage varieties from N. America, Denmark, France, Belgium, England, Germany, Hungary, Italy, among others. Obviously, this remains a research project still many decades in the making, but the multi-year basics have largely been done. The trees are locally up, running, and documented. Pear geekhood, anyone?

Though my current grafting focus is largely on storage varieties of apples and pears, as the perspective continues to deepen I've begun thinking very recently (a text that came my way rather raised an eyebrow) about how my evolving choices may play to the phenomenon of climate change. Has any HOSer considered how variety or rootstock choices for apples and pears or other fruits might morph locally and intelligently in this regard?

n


Tue Mar 16, 2010 6:46 am
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Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2010 1:42 pm
Posts: 186
Post Re: Extending the fresh pear season by 4-6 months
Thanks for your post....I hope you post again.....and I hope to see who is working on this problem....
As I mentioned in an earlier post I am working with various volunteer groups in Seattle that are trying to improve the backyard care and harvest of fruit and I would like to see which people have which kinds of expertise that they could loan to helping with this cause in the Pacific Northwest.
It seems to me that volunteer expertise could not only help ensure a greater backyard harvest but also be somewhat resistant to big business setting the agenda for us. :?


Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:44 am
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Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1334
Location: Portland, OR
Post Re: Extending the fresh pear season by 4-6 months
One that I would mention is Japanese flowering quince fruit. I think the genus is chaenomeles. Although it is not popular to eat, it stores really well,even without refrigeration. It tastes like lemon, even though it is related to pome fruits. I make "lemonade" out of it, and the scurvy-infested sailors of yore might have spared themselves many a death with this fruit. I'm sure it is high in vitamin C. It grows extremely well here, and it is normally grown for its pretty red flowers, visible now (March). I have several fruits right now that show no sign of problems. My take is that unusually sour fruit (like this one) tends to store unusually well. Ted Swensen wrote an article detailing that acidity decreases more rapidly than sweetness in storage fruit over time.

Another is quince. Although I primarily grow the fresh eating varieties, the cooking varieties seem to store longer. I still have one fresh-eating one that I am saving for eating.

In my opinion, one way to get a lot of pears out there is to graft them onto quince rootstock, which grows by cuttings. It quickly should grow into a producing "tree", which can then be guerrilla planted, if running out of space. We need to be careful about which kinds, because most pears have long-term compatibility issues with quince. Two pears that do work are Warren and Conference. I'm going to try to graft them soon here.
John S
PDX OR


Tue Mar 16, 2010 10:45 pm
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Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 1:05 pm
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Location: SE PDX
Post Re: Extending the fresh pear season by 4-6 months
St. Remy, a French variety, has been described as an epically storable culinary variety, supposedly hard as a rock for up to a full year.
Suij, a Dutch pear, I believe, is a St. Remy/Comice cross, very storable and delicious when it finally ripens after months in storage.

Count me in.


Thu Apr 08, 2010 10:16 pm
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Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 11:28 pm
Posts: 485
Location: Willamette Valley near Scio
Post Re: Extending the fresh pear season by 4-6 months
I'll have to see if my Belgic friend knows anything about St. Remy or Suij. They are not in the repository.


Fri Apr 09, 2010 7:10 am
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Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 1:10 pm
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Post Re: Extending the fresh pear season by 4-6 months
After some years of experience and observation, what do you think are the best winter pears for the Pacific Northwest? I am very interested in Suij, as well as the culinary pears, Catillac, Bellissime d'Hiver, Black Worcestor, and Pound Pear. I am growing Pound Pear. I would be interested to know the results of your observations since this thread originated.


Fri May 25, 2012 11:27 am
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Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2012 12:45 am
Posts: 3
Post Re: Extending the fresh pear season by 4-6 months
Quote:
In my opinion, one way to get a lot of pears out there is to graft them onto quince rootstock, which grows by cuttings. It quickly should grow into a producing "tree", which can then be guerrilla planted, if running out of space. We need to be careful about which kinds, because most pears have long-term compatibility issues with quince. Two pears that do work are Warren and Conference. I'm going to try to graft them soon here.
John S
PDX OR[/quote]

Does a Quince rootstock, Warren Mid Stem, Desired Variety top work to foil the incompatibilty issue?


Fri Jun 22, 2012 8:35 pm
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Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1334
Location: Portland, OR
Post Re: Extending the fresh pear season by 4-6 months
Yes, that will work, and another benefit is that Warren typically takes a long time to fruit. Maybe while youre waiting for Warren to mature the other variety will already have produced fruit for a few years.
John S
PDX OR


Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:10 pm
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Joined: Sun Sep 27, 2009 9:10 am
Posts: 95
Location: Corvallis
Post Re: Extending the fresh pear season by 4-6 months
Since nobody has mentioned this pear...

http://www.slowfoodusa.org/index.php/programs/ark_product_detail/american_heirloom_pears/#26

No idea about the storage qualities, but the ripening time is of interest for this area.


Wed Jun 27, 2012 11:53 am
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Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 11:28 pm
Posts: 485
Location: Willamette Valley near Scio
Post Re: Extending the fresh pear season by 4-6 months
quokka wrote:
Since nobody has mentioned this pear...

http://www.slowfoodusa.org/index.php/programs/ark_product_detail/american_heirloom_pears/#26

No idea about the storage qualities, but the ripening time is of interest for this area.

Nice fruit porn, that!


Fri Jun 29, 2012 4:24 pm
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