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Pear trees were brought by early colonists to America’s eastern settlements. Most trees thrived until blight decimated orchards in the region. Pioneers brought pear trees to the Pacific Northwest in the 1800s, where they flourished and continue to do so today. Oregon and Washington boast not only the warm days and cool nights perfect for growth, but have the rich volcanic soil and ample moisture for trees and developing fruit. California is also a significant producer, with Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania contributing to U.S. supply.
Types & Varieties
Three basic types of pears are grown in the United States: European or French pears, Oriental Hybrid, and Asian (often referred to as ‘apple-pears’ due to their crunchy texture).
Among the more popular European varieties are Bartlett, D’Anjou, Comice, and Bosc; a few Asian pear varieties are Chojuro, Ichiban Nashi (Nashi means pear in Japanese), Shinsui, Ya Li, and Yoinashi. It is unknown just how many pear varieties exist in the world, but it is believed to be in the thousands.
Fruit trees are not typically grown from seed but through propagation. Because pear trees do not root easily, they are grafting onto a rootstock.
Most cultivars require up to 1,200 chill hours (below 45°F) in winter to complete their dormant period. Fully dormant trees can survive temperatures as low as -25°F, pear blossoms, however, are extremely sensitive to frost and temperatures below 26°F.
Although trees tolerate multiple soil conditions, deep, well-drained soil is preferred, with plenty of water and humidity, though too much humidity can lead to blight and fungal growth.
Pests & Diseases
Pear psylla, similar to cicadas and aphids, attack all types of pear trees but are more dangerous for European than Asian varietals.
Grape mealybugs may feed on calyxes, softening fruit. In older trees, the bugs overwinter their eggs in coarse bark, becoming a problem in the spring.
Pear slugs lay eggs on the underside of leaves. Larvae feed on foliage causing skeletonization. Other pests include armyworms, cankerworms, cutworms, boxelder bugs, codling moths, leafrollers, mites, moths, lygus bugs, scale, stink bugs, and thrips.
Fire blight is the most serious of pear diseases, generally appearing in spring and causing dark discolorations on blossoms, leaves, and twigs. In some cases, the entire tree dies.
Pear scab begins as circular, brownish spots on leaves and stalks, turning into velvety patches. Fungus can overwinter in leafy groundcover and infected twigs.
Blue mold rot occurs in storage and appears as soft, watery spots, due to mechanical injury, bruising, and cuts. Other diseases of concern include bacterial canker, black spot, blossom blast, crown and root rot, and pear decline.
Storage & Packaging
With the exception of Asian pears, which can be eaten right o? the tree if mature, European pears ripen best o? the tree. Fruit is harvested by firmness (depending on variety) and stored in precooled rooms with temperatures ranging from 30 to 32°F with 90 to 95% relative humidity.
Asian pears require slightly warmer temps, from 34 to 36°F with 90 to 95% humidity. If temperatures fall below 29°F, chilling injury can occur. Ethylene enhances ripening for European cultivars; optimal conditions for ripening are 59 to 72°F with 90 to 95% relative humidity.
Asian pears are sensitive to ethylene and will also absorb odors from strong-smelling fruits or vegetables if stored or shipped together.
References: California Pear Advisory Board, Pear Bureau Northwest, Purdue University, Texas A&M University,University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources,Washington State University.
GRADES & GOOD ARRIVAL
Standards are divided into summer and winter grades. Winter pear grades are U.S. Extra No. 1, U.S. No. 1, U.S. Combination, and U.S. No. 2. Summer pear grades are U.S. No. 1, U.S. Combination, and U.S. No. 2.
Generally speaking, the percentage of defects shown on a timely government inspection certificate should not exceed the percentage of allowable defects shown, provided: (1) transportation conditions were normal; (2) the USDA or CFIA inspection was timely; and (3) the entire lot was inspected.
|U.S. Grade Standards||Days Since Shipment||% of Defects Allowed||Optimum Transit Temp. (°F)|
Canada guidelines (unless otherwise noted) are broken down into five (5) parts as follows: maximum percentage of defects, maximum percentage of permanent defects, maximum percentage for any single permanent defect, maximum percentage for any single condition defect, and maximum for decay. Canadian destination guidelines are 15-10-5-10-5.
Pear Retail Pricing:
Conventional & Organic Per Pound