Some years ago at a farm market in Nelson County, Virginia, I first became acquainted with the Asian pear. Rather than possessing a classic pear shape, the fruit was round and just a little squat, more closely resembling an apple. With a deep tan skin not unlike that of a Seckel pear, it is crisp, extremely juicy and exceptionally sweet.
Is an Asian ‘pear’ a pear?
The Asian pear, Pyrus pyrifolia, actually is a pear. Its texture and extreme juiciness usually preclude the Asian pear from being featured cooked in jams or pies. However, it may be cooked and used in more indirect ways, such as in the tenderizing of meat. One of the fruit’s nicest features is its uniform size and appearance, which is best-controlled through hand-thinning of the developing fruits.
In the United States
Asian pears are commonly grown along the West Coast in California, Oregon and Washington; however, their domain is growing. Asian pears are now found in many states, including Texas, Alabama, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland and New Jersey. The major deterrents have been ‘fire blight’ and late frost. The rootstock must be able to endure in these colder climates. The choice is usually the hearty Pyrus betulaefolia.